Debate in the national expert group on vaccine administration have centered on whose needs are most acute after frontline healthcare workers, said the people cited above.
“The discussions have been on whether to prioritise senior citizens who are vulnerable or to the working age group of 25 to 45 years who are going out and bringing the virus home,” one of them said. “It has been felt that the younger population is more or less able to fight the virus better and the senior citizens are more vulnerable — we need to save lives and protect them.”According to health ministry data, 53% of Covid-19 deaths have been in the 60 years and above age group; 35% in 45-60 age bracket.
The Centre began drawing up priority lists of frontline healthcare workers in October with the help of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The states were given a module to upload lists and even designate healthcare workers who could also be vaccinators.
The national panel has discussed other aspects, including vaccine funding, roping in private hospital chains and making vaccines available in the market, said the people cited above. The Centre has proposed that after covering healthcare workers, senior citizens and those above 50 with comorbidities such as diabetes and respiratory tract and heart ailments, vaccines should be made available in the market for people to buy. The proposal has been circulated to state governments to seek their views before the Centre finalises its vaccine administration policy.
Private healthcare chains have also reached out to the government asking to be involved. However, the government is likely to keep tight control over the administering of vaccines until the vulnerable sections are covered.