Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan in Lok Sabha on Friday said that the third phase of vaccination against the Covid-19 is likely to commence in March and will cover 27 crore people aged 50 years and above along with those with co-morbidities.
“In coming days, 27 crore people who are of above 50 years of age and those under 50 with co-morbidities will be vaccinated,” Harsh Vardhan said.
Harsh Vardhan said nearly five million people have been inoculated in the country so far, adding that the vaccination drive for frontline workers has begun this week.
The health minister was replying to questions on vaccines and the vaccination drive against the coronavirus during the Question Hour,
The Covid-19 vaccination drive in India began on January 16, with healthcare workers being administered the shots first followed by frontline workers. Both estimated to be around three crore.
“After the completion of first and second phases, the third phase could be launched from any week next month,” Vardhan said.
He added that the third phase will cover people above the age of 50.
Harsh Vardhan said the finance minister has allocated Rs 35,000 crore for vaccination in the Budget with an assurance that it could be increased if required.
He said two vaccines — Serum Institute’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin — have been approved for emergency use authorisation, while work is in progress on seven more vaccines against Covid-19.
“Besides these, work is in progress on seven vaccines. Of the seven, three vaccines are in phase 3 clinical trial stage. Two vaccines are in phase 1 and 2 clinical trial stages and the remaining two are in advanced pre-clinical stage,” the health minister said.
He added that India has received requests for vaccines from 22 countries. These countries include Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brazil, Egypt, Kuwait, Maldives, Mauritius, Morocco, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, South Africa and the UAE. There is also request from the Pacific Island countries, Vardhan said.
Vaccines have already been given to 15 countries through grant assistance and contracted doses. Harsh Vardhan said 56 lakh doses have been sent through grants and five lakh doses through contract.