NEW DELHI: The Centre on Monday decided to allow walk-in Covid-19 vaccinations for the 18-44 age group at government hospitals in order to reduce vaccine wastage and ensure immunisation coverage to those without access to the internet.
The final decision on whether to opt for this facility will however be taken by state governments.
So far, those in the 18-44 year age group could receive Covid jabs only after registering and booking slots in advance through the CoWIN portal or Aarogya Setu app, a system that will continue for private hospitals. Those above 45 years however are allowed to walk in at any vaccination centre and take the shots.
Only about 1 crore people in the 18-44 year age group—out of the estimated 49 crores across India—have taken the first jab of the vaccine so far, even though the inoculation was opened for them on May 1.
The latest decision, said the Union health ministry, is based on various representations given by the states which suggested that in case of sessions exclusively organized with online slots, towards the end of the day, some doses are still left unutilized if the appointees do not turn up.
In such cases, on-site registration of a few beneficiaries may be necessary to minimize the vaccine wastage, the ministry said.
It also conceded that even though quite a few channels are available for the process of registration and booking an appointment, people requiring a facilitated cohort’s facility and those without access to internet or smart phones or mobile phones may still have limited access for vaccination.
“Therefore, the feature for on-site registration and appointment is now being enabled for 18-44 years age group on CoWIN,” the Centre announced adding that this feature is being enabled only for government centres for now.
“This feature will not be available for private CVCs presently and they will have to publish their vaccination schedules exclusively with slots for online appointments,” the government said in a statement.
The ministry also clarified that this feature will be used only upon the decision of the respective states and they must take a call on opening of on-site registrations, facilitated cohorts’ registration and appointments for 18-44 years age group based on the local context.
It also advised states to issue clear instructions to all district immunization officers to strictly adhere to the decision of the respective states regarding the extent and manner of using the walk-in facility.
Fully reserved sessions can also be organized for providing vaccination services to the beneficiaries belonging to facilitated cohorts, the government said, stressing wherever such fully reserved sessions are organized, all efforts must also be made to mobilize such beneficiaries in sufficient numbers.
It however cautioned that abundant caution should be exercised and extreme due care should be taken while opening up of on-site registration and appointment for 18-44 years age group, in order to avoid overcrowding at vaccination centres.
The Covid19 vaccination drive in India, launched in mid-January, has been marred by vaccine shortage and over the last several weeks, the daily jabs have been very low. The government, on the other hand, has assured that it is targeting to fully cover at least the entire adult population of about 94 crores by the year end.