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Should Have Deferred Vaccination Age Group Expansion: Central Covid Panel



Dr NK Arora says there is sufficient vaccine even now to cater to those aged above 45 years.

New Delhi:

India had prioritised Covid vaccination by age-group primarily to reduce mortality, but the expansion of that criteria has now caused a shortage, the chief of the Centre’s COVID-19 working group has said. There is enough vaccine even now for the earlier target group, according to Dr NK Arora, chairman of the central panel.

“Expanding the age group to 18-45…clearly there is no vaccine available, there is a shortage. I would say this (expansion) should have been deferred for a while,” Dr Arora told NDTV.

“In a simple way, prioritisation was done sometime in September October last year. And it was very clear, as per the availability, that the immediate purpose of vaccination will be to reduce morbidity and mortality. And, obviously, the highest-risk population is to be targeted,” he said.

That is why 45 years plus, plus frontline workers were picked, according to Dr Arora, who is also a member of India’s National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.  

“And even today, there is sufficient vaccine to take care of them till July, and 50-55 crore doses will be available for them,” he said.

Importantly, he emphasised, vaccines are not available even abroad now.

“Many of us feel that vaccines will come if we put out tenders, but that is not correct. There is hardly any vaccine available globally because these are highly committed manufacturing, cornered by some of the high-income countries,” he said.

Earlier this week, the Centre announced that it hoped to have over 200 crore doses of coronavirus vaccines between August to December this year amid criticism that it had mishandled the vaccine plan.

Experts remain unsure when the infection numbers will peak in the country. The second Covid wave, which erupted in February, has been accompanied by a slowdown in vaccinations although India is the world’s largest vaccine producer of vaccines and it opened up inoculation for all adults on May 1.

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