Union minister Prakash Javadekar on Wednesday announced that the Centre will begin vaccinating citizens who are above the age of 60 and those above 45 deemed at high-risk because of pre-existing medical conditions, from March 1, ANI reported.

The vaccines will be given at 10,000 government centres and 20,000 private inoculation centres, he said. The shots given at the public centres will be free of cost.

“Those who want to get vaccinated from private hospitals will have to pay,” Javadekar added. “The amount they would need to pay will be decided by the health ministry within 3-4 days as they are in discussion with manufacturers and hospitals.”

India commenced the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines on January 16, with a target of inoculating 30 crore people by July. As many as 1,21,65,598 healthcare and frontline workers have been vaccinated as of Wednesday.

The government is relying on a digital platform, called CoWIN, to link beneficiaries with vaccines, in what the government touts as the biggest inoculation campaign in the world. Though initial glitches in the software slowed the immunisation programme, the government said modifications had been made to ensure no such repeat occurred.

The country is using the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine, which is produced by the Serum Institute, and a government-backed vaccine developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech whose efficacy is not entirely yet known. People will not be able to choose which of the vaccines they get.

Some doctors and health experts have expressed doubt about the Bharat Biotech vaccine, which was given approval for emergency use without efficacy data from late-stage clinical trials. However, the pharmaceutical firm’s Chairperson and Managing Director Krishna Ella on Tuesday said the interim data on the efficacy of the vaccine will be available in two weeks.

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