Hospitals do not necessarily have to stick to a fixed schedule to vaccinate people against COVID-19 and can extend or advance the vaccination schedule any day, the government has said. This will help speed up the vaccination drive as more and more people become eligible for the life-saving jabs.
“The government has removed time constraint to increase the speed of vaccination. People can get vaccinated 24×7 at their convenience. Prime Minister Narendra Modi understands the value of both time and health of citizens,” Health Minister Harsh Vardhan tweeted in Hindi.
The Health Minister was replying to a report by the newspaper Dainik Bhaskar that said private hospitals can choose any time window to vaccinate people.
However, since all hospitals – both private and government ones – involved in the inoculation drive are linked by the government’s CoWIN app and website, the flexible schedule allowed by the government is applicable to both.
“The CoWIN portal has no 9 am to 5 pm vaccination system. It allows hospitals to vaccinate for as long as they want, even till 8 pm they can vaccinate. They can start as early as 8 am if they want. They will have to coordinate with the state government for schedule and capacity,” Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said on Tuesday.
Another reason for flexible timing is to avoid crowding at vaccination sites.
“We did not want to divide time into compartments. It can be morning or afternoon, depending on hospital capacity… It’s an important feedback that overcrowding is happening. We will make changes in the system to prevent overcrowding at vaccination sites,” Mr Bhushan said.
The centre has asked states and Union Territories not to store or create a buffer stock of COVID-19 vaccines, a day after the start of the second phase of the inoculation drive in which the coverage has been expanded to include those above 60 and those over 45 with specified illnesses.
“Further, states and UTs (Union Territories) in consultation with private hospitals should open vaccination slots for 15 days to a month and announce this as part of their vaccine timetable,” the Health Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
A total of 6,09,845 vaccine doses have been given till 7 pm on Tuesday, the 46th day of nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive.