In India, the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccination programme began on 16th January 2020. Since then, the country has rapidly administered the first dose of one of the two approved COVID-19 vaccines - Covishield and COVAXIN - to nearly 5 million healthcare workers. The lightning pace at which India is administering the COVID-19 vaccines has astonished people all over the world.
At the same time, many in the country are now eagerly looking forward to getting their vaccine shots. The euphoria surrounding the COVID-19 vaccination is completely understandable. However, due to the limited availability of the vaccines, the Government of India has decided that only those who are at the greatest risk of contracting the infection will get vaccines in the first phase. The rest will be vaccinated later.
Who will be vaccinated in the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccination programme?
The Government of India has designated certain groups as priority beneficiaries for the COVID-19 vaccination programme. The beneficiaries will be vaccinated on a priority basis due to their higher risk. The groups designated as priority beneficiaries are:
- Healthcare workers
- Frontline workers
- People aged 50 and above
- People under 50 years with comorbidities
Why are priority groups at higher risk?
In India, the healthcare fraternity has led the battle against COVID-19 from the front. However, the pandemic has also taken a severe toll on healthcare workers. According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, COVID-19 has so far claimed the lives of 162 doctors, 107 nurses, and 44 ASHA workers in the country. The Government of India has, therefore, decided to immunize the 1 crore healthcare workers ahead of others so that they can continue to serve the nation without the fear of getting infected with the virus.
Like healthcare workers, the frontline workers have played an active role in the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since last year, several frontline workers lost their lives to COVID-19 while serving the nation. Therefore, it has been decided that 2 crore frontline workers will be vaccinated on a priority basis.
- People over 50 and those with comorbidities
Medical experts opine that people who are over 50 years of age and those with one or more of the comorbid conditions like hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cholesterol, etc. are at a greater risk of developing severe COVID-19 complications. According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 53% of coronavirus deaths have been in the age group of 60 years and above, 35% in the 45-60 age bracket, and 10% in the 26-44 age bracket. To reduce the number of fatalities, the Government of India has decided to immunize them ahead of the rest of the population.
When will the rest of the population be vaccinated?
Compared to older people and those with comorbidities, young and healthy individuals are at a relatively lower risk of requiring hospitalization or dying from COVID-19. Given the lower risk, the Government of India has not included people below 50 years of age and those without any comorbidities in the list of priority beneficiaries that it hopes to immunize in the first phase. People who are not included in the list of priority beneficiaries will have to wait until later this year for their turn. However, they should continue to follow the COVID-19 safety and precautionary measures till the vaccines are available them.
The COVID-19 vaccines will play a key role in ending the pandemic. However, given the limited availability of the vaccines, the Government of India will start by immunizing those who are at the greatest risk of contracting COVID-19. The rest of us will get vaccinated after all the priority beneficiaries have been fully vaccinated. People who are not covered under the first phase of the vaccination drive will have to wait for further information and guidelines from the government.
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