India opens up faltering vaccine drive to all over-45s

Global coronavirus toll rises to 27,35,411

Agence France-Presse . New Delhi | Published: 02:36, Mar 25,2021


India announced Tuesday it will open its vaccination drive to all over-45s from April 1 in a bid to boost its massive but flagging inoculation drive as infections rise.

India has so far vaccinated nearly 50 million people but the programme to inoculate 300 million people by the end of July is behind schedule, experts say.

One year after imposing the world’s biggest pandemic lockdown, India is racing against time to vaccinate its 1.3 billion population against COVID-19 as a new surge threatens to derail efforts to control the disease.

Until now only ‘frontline’ workers in healthcare and other areas, together with people over 60 and those over 45 with co-morbidities, have been eligible for either the AstraZeneca vaccine or a homegrown Bharat Biotech shot.

‘Following scientific and COVID19 task force advice, the cabinet today decided to open vaccinations for everyone over 45 years from April 1,’ Prakash Javadekar, information and broadcast minister, told reporters.

Javadekar also announced that state governments had been directed to provide the second dose four to eight weeks after the first, compared to an earlier regime of four to six weeks.

Experts say that many people are reluctant to get vaccinated for a variety of reasons including safety concerns and apathy about the pandemic after a sharp fall in infections since September.

Prime minister Narendra Modi, who was vaccinated on March 1, has issued several appeals in recent days asking ‘all those who are eligible to take the vaccine.’

‘Together, let us make India COVID-19 free!’ he said on Twitter earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the novel coronavirus has killed at least 27,35,411 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Wednesday.

At least 12,41,67,620 cases of coronavirus have been registered.

The vast majority have recovered, though some have continued to experience symptoms weeks or even months later.

These figures are based on daily tolls provided by health authorities in each country and exclude later re-evaluations by statistical organisations, as has happened in Russia, Spain and Britain.

On Tuesday, 11,169 new deaths and 5,31,792 new cases were recorded worldwide.

Based on latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were Brazil with 3,251 new deaths, followed by United States with 869 and Mexico with 809.

The United States is the worst-affected country with 5,43,849 deaths from 2,99,23,094 cases.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 2,98,676 deaths from 1,21,30,019 cases, Mexico with 1,99,048 deaths from 22,03,041 cases, India with 1,60,441 deaths from 1,17,34,058 cases, and Britain with 1,26,284 deaths from 43,07,304 cases.

Europe overall has 9,28,153 deaths from 4,18,65,111 cases, Latin America and the Caribbean 7,50,351 deaths from 2,38,13,265 infections, and the United States and Canada 5,66,579 deaths from 3,08,64,115 cases.

Asia has reported 2,67,511 deaths from 1,72,12,349 cases, the Middle East 1,11,326 deaths from 62,50,679 cases, Africa 1,10,517 deaths from 41,26,929 cases, and Oceania 974 deaths from 35,179 cases.

The leaders of the Germany’s 16 states backtrack on plans for a strict Easter lockdown after a backlash against the order to stay at home over the holiday.

France’s culture minister Roselyne Bachelot is admitted to hospital with the virus two days after her cabinet colleague employment minister Elisabeth Borne.

Borne said on Twitter that she was released Wednesday, thanking  hospital staff for their help ‘during these difficult days.’

Poland reports nearly 30,000 new infections in a single day, the worst since the start of the pandemic as the government vows to toughen its partial lockdown.

Asian markets drop with investors worried that new spikes in infections and lockdowns will knock the economic recovery off course.

Residents of a Beijing suburb who have got a jab are offered discounts in supermarkets as the authorities try to boost the uptake of vaccines.

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