NEW DELHI: The third priority group for Covid-19 vaccination-- people above 50 -- will start getting jabs in March, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan informed the Lok Sabha on Friday.
The vaccination of the front-line workers began on January 16 following the inoculations for healthcare workers.
Vardhan said that since the drive for the second phase to cover over 2 crore frontline workers is under progress, it is difficult to announce any fixed date at present but it is expected that the third phase of the vaccination drive will start in the second, third or fourth week of March.
The announcement comes on a day the number of vaccinations crossed the 50 lakh mark.
Replying to a question during the question hour session of Lok Sabha, the Minister made the announcement saying “the third phase drive will cover the most vulnerable people over the age of 50.”
Vardhan said that the first phase of the world's biggest vaccination drive, which was rolled out in January by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India, had aimed to inoculate around 1 crore healthcare workers and the second phase targeted 2 crore frontline workers.
As of now two vaccines, one each by the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech are being used for the country's Covid-19 immunisation drive.
The minister, however, added that seven more vaccines are under process and 22 countries including the United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Afghanistan have so far requested India to supply Covid-19 vaccines and 15 of them have been provided 161 lakh doses.
In a press briefing on Thursday, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan had said that within the prioritised group of the elderly population, there is a subgroup of people above 60.
There have been reports that once the vaccination of this group starts, prominent government functionaries such as Prime Minister and Chief Ministers could be the first ones to get the shots.