Amid the alarming surge of Coronavirus cases in the country, sources have stated that the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has decided to allow the COVID-19 vaccination drives to be conducted at government and private workplaces having about 100 eligible and willing beneficiaries. Earlier, the vaccination drives were conducted only in government and private hospitals.
Sources have stated that the decision was taken to ramp up the vaccination process and in order to increase the access of vaccines to the populations above 45 years of age. Incidentally, this comes after the Indian Medical Association urged the Centre to remove the age bar for vaccination and open the vaccination drive for all age groups. Although the Centre has not reduced the age bar, according to sources, workplaces with 100 eligible and willing beneficiaries will also be allowed to conduct vaccination drive. At present, the vaccination drives have been opened for all citizens above 45 years of age.
Speaking on the development, Indian Medical Association (IMA) President J A Jayalal called it good news and congratulated the government for the decision.
"We wholeheartedly congratulate the government for understanding the situation and providing the vaccines at the workplace. Whatever help is needed be it the technical front, manpower or infrastructure, the IMA fraternity is open and ready to work with the government to ensure that vaccination drive is taking place at every workplace," Jayalal said while speaking with Republic TV.
After several states called for the removal of the age bar for vaccination, the IMA president on Tuesday had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow vaccination for all adult citizens and not be restricted to people above 45 years.
"We feel that vaccinating all is the only option to combat the second wave. As more and more people are vaccinated, we will develop herd immunity. As per ICMR estimates, if 1.6 crore people are infected, another 30-40 crore people will also be infected. Additionally, 30-40 crore people need to be vaccinated. So far only 8 crore people are vaccinated. We need to open up the centres to anyone above 18 to get vaccinated," JA Jayalal had said to Republic TV.
Responding to the demands for the opening up of vaccination for all adults, the Union Health Ministry on Tuesday said that the aim for vaccination is to cover people who need the vaccine and not those who want it. The Health Ministry has stated that its aim is to reduce mortality due to COVID-19 which has been witnessed more in the aged population than the youth.
While addressing a press conference, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had said, "Many people ask why should not we allow vaccination for all. There are two aims of such vaccination drives -- to prevent deaths and protect the healthcare system. The aim is not to administer the vaccine to those who want it, but to those who need it."
Faced with an exponential spike in daily new COVID-19 cases, Chief Ministers of Delhi, Rajasthan and Maharashtra have been continuously urging the Centre to remove the age limit on COVID-19 vaccine and allow the states to vaccinate people of all age groups.
Speaking on the issue, Dr VK Paul, who is a member of Niti Aayog (health), said that the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on vaccination say the top priority should be to reduce deaths and save lives.
Dr VK Paul said, "Vaccine is being given to reducing mortality and severity. So worldwide, the focus is to target vulnerable sections first, and ensure their complete vaccination."