Amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in the country, the Indian Medical Association has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggesting that vaccination be allowed for all people above the age of 18 years.
The daily rise in new coronavirus infections in India remained above 90,000 for the third consecutive day on Tuesday taking the nationwide COVID-19 tally of cases to 1,26,86,049, according to the Union Health Ministry. The country had a day ago reported 1,03,558 new cases.
''At present, we are vaccinating the population above 45 years. In view of the rapid spread of the second wave of the disease, we suggest that our vaccination strategy be geared up with immediate effect and on war footing,'' the Indian Medical Association (IMA) said in its letter to the prime minister.
More than 43 lakh COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered in a span 24 hours on April 5, the highest single-day coverage till now, taking the total doses given in the country so far to 8,31,10,926, according to the Union Health Ministry.
As on day-80 of the vaccination drive (April 5), a total 43,00,966 vaccine doses have been given out of which 39,00,505 beneficiaries were vaccinated across 48,095 sessions for 1st dose while 4,00,461 beneficiaries received the 2nd dose, according to the data updated at 7 am. ''This is the highest single day vaccination coverage in the country so far,'' the ministry said.
''In another significant development, the cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country has crossed 8.31 crore. The first dose vaccinations have also exceeded the landmark figure of 7 crore (7,22,77,309) doses,'' the ministry said.
The doctors' body said that ''we request following suggestions in the COVID-19 vaccination drive — all citizens above 18 years of age shall be permitted to receive COVID vaccination and walk-in COVID vaccination should be available for all, free of cost at their nearest possible place''.
The IMA also suggested that private sector family clinics should be included actively in the vaccination drive along with private hospitals.
Making vaccination certificate mandatory for entering public places and to receive products under the public distribution system, was also part of the suggestions made by the association.
The IMA stated that the pandemic's second wave surge is reaching record highs and added that ''vaccination against COVID-19 stands as a single evidence-based resource for us to restrict cases by raising the personal immune response and pave the way for herd immunity to decrease the severity of the disease''.
It said that availability of vaccination with all doctors and family physicians will have positive impact on the inoculation drive.
District level vaccine task force teams should be constituted with public and private participation to enforce mass vaccination, to monitor and mitigate adverse drug events, and to build confidence, the IMA suggested and added that it is willing to actively take part in it.
The doctors' body said that in view of rising cases and as an measure to break the transmission chain, ''limited period continuous lockdowns'' should be implemented, ''especially for all non-essential areas like cinemas, cultural and religious events, sports, etc.'' ''Indian Medical Association assures and places its proactive support of its entire manpower and infrastructure facilities for rapid vaccination and stands with the government during this hour of crisis,'' it said.
Many Indian state leaders have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to open up vaccinations to most of the country’s hundreds of millions of adults, following a second surge in infections that has eclipsed the first wave.
India, the world's biggest vaccine maker, this month expanded its inoculation programme to include everyone above the age of 45. But so far it has vaccinated only about 1 in 25 people, compared with nearly 1 in 2 in Britain and 1 in 3 in the United States, according to the Our World in Data here website.“If a larger number of young and working population is vaccinated, the intensity of the cases would be much lower than the treatment that they need today,” Uddhav Thackeray, chief minister of India’s worst affected Maharashtra state, wrote in a letter to Modi on Monday.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and many other states have also asked for faster and wider vaccinations, with some like Odisha repeatedly flagging tightness in supplies even for the prioritised groups.
The Delhi government also announced a night curfew in the capital until April 30, Reuters partner ANI reported.
The federal government has said it will widen the vaccination campaign to include other age groups in the “near future”, and that vaccine supplies are being stepped up.
India has exported more than 64 million vaccine doses but has now slowed shipments to prioritise its domestic needs.There is also widespread criticism over tens of thousands of mostly maskless people crowding political rallies across four states holding elections.
Modi and his close cabinet colleagues have addressed the rallies.There are also concerns over tens of thousands of Hindu devotees gathering on the banks of the river Ganges, in the northern state of Uttarakhand ruled by Modi’s party, for the weeks long ‘Kumbh Mela’, or pitcher festival.
Organisers had initially expected more than 150 million people to arrive, though the numbers are likely to be much lower now due the rise in cases.