Free COVID vaccines for all in Telangana, the gap between first and second doses of Covishield increased to 14 to 16 weeks

Published : July 01, 2021 19:37 IST

At a Government COVID Vaccination Centre in Medak, Telangana,on July 1. Photo: The Hindu Archives

In what will bring good cheer to people in Telangana, the State government, on June 30, decided to roll out free COVID-19 vaccination to all individuals above the age of 18.

Starting July 3, vaccines will be administered to any individual above the age of 18 at all the designated Government COVID Vaccination Centres (GCVC) across the State. Hitherto, because of the paucity of vaccine doses, only those above the age of 30 were eligible to get free vaccine shots. Officials from the Health Department peg the number of people who would benefit from this move at around 1.5 crore.

Officials from the Health Department said that while beneficiaries residing within Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) limits would have to reserve their slot through the online CoWIN portal, those in the rural areas could walk into the jurisdictional local Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and get vaccinated.

As part of its plan, the Health Department has established 100 GCVCs within the limits of the GHMC, while 204 GCVCs have been set up in the ULBs. In the rural areas, the State’s existing 636 PHCs will undertake the task of vaccinating the eligible population.

In a statement, Dr G. Srinivasa Rao, Director of Public Health, Telangana, said June 30: “I urge all beneficiaries to make use of the facility and get vaccinated. The second dose of the Covishield vaccine will be administered between 14 weeks and 16 weeks from the first dose. The vaccination drive for above 18 years will depend on the vaccine stocks and hopefully we should be able to get adequate supply from the Centre.”

But this move coincides with the State’s Department of Health, Medical and Family Welfare’s decision to extend the gap between the two doses of the Covishield vaccine to 14-16 weeks. This gap is more than that prescribed by the Union government, which had increased the gap from 4 to 8 weeks to 12 weeks in May 2021. The Telangana government explained its decision in its latest media release saying that it wished to prioritise the first dose of vaccines for those who haven’t been vaccinated at all. However, officials said that the move has been prompted more due to the shortage in the number of doses being dispatched from the Centre.

The Health Department disclosed that Telangana will receive around 21 lakh doses from the Centre in July. In addition to this, private hospitals are expected to procure seven lakh doses. However, the number of people eligible for the second dose in just July exceeds 30 lakh. The widening in the gap between the two Covishield doses will help push the due dates of the second dose recipients to August, when the number of vaccines supplied by the Centre will hopefully be higher.

The State has in the past six weeks conducted several special vaccination drives aimed at vaccinating the vulnerable sections of the population, including journalists, LPG delivery staff, fair price shop dealers, petrol pump workers, auto and cab drivers, kirana shop and liquor shop employees. These special drives will continue.

On June 25, the State had announced that it had administered more than one crore shots of the COVID-19 vaccine, As on June 30, Telangana had administered 1,10,69,989 COVID-19 vaccine doses. While 94,92,680 have been administered at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, 15,77,309 have received both doses.