The government on Tuesday refused to allow coronavirus vaccination for all age groups, a demand raised by at least two chief ministers as well as the Indian Medical Association, reported NDTV.

Refusing to permit vaccination for all, the government said the aim was to cover the people who are the most vulnerable at the earliest. “The approach is that those vulnerable to mortality need to be covered soonest,” Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said at a press conference. “The aim is to protect the most vulnerable. The aim is never to vaccinate whoever wants, but always on whoever needs.”

He said that opening vaccinations for everyone will reduce the focus on controlling the pandemic, and asked if any country was inoculating people below the age of 45. “We have to focus on Covid-appropriate behaviour and containment measures,” Bhushan said. “When the time comes to open it to all, then we will.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the Indian Medical Association had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow all citizens above the age of 18 to get vaccinated. “In view of the rapid spread of the disease, we suggest that our vaccine strategy needs to be geared up with immediate effect on war foot,” it said. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Maharashtra counterpart Uddhav Thackeray had also made the request.

At the press briefing, the health ministry said that cases in India were rising continuously from the first week of February. It added that Maharashtra, Punjab and Chhattisgarh remain the cause of maximum concern.

“Average daily new cases in Maharashtra rose to more than 44,000 as compared to an average of 3,000 daily cases in second week of February,” Bhushan said during the briefing. “Average daily deaths has also gone up from 32 to 250.”

While speaking about Punjab and Chhattisgarh, the health ministry official said. “Given their population, the deaths being reported by the two states is a cause of great concern.”

Bhushan added that the Centre will send 50 high-level multidisciplinary public health teams to Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Punjab amid the surge in cases, ANI reported. “They will be going to 30 districts of Maharashtra, 11 districts of Chhattisgarh and nine districts of Punjab,” he added. “They will assist state health department and district administrations in surveillance, control and containment measures.” The teams will also submit daily reports to the Centre.

Meanwhile, NITI Aayog member (Health) VK Paul said that there has been a serious rise in cases in the country. “The speed at which the cases are rising is higher than the last time,” he said. “The entire country has to unite to fight against the pandemic. We have to use tools like vaccination and containment. People must follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.”

Centre asks its employees over 45 to get vaccinated

Besides this, the Centre on Tuesday advised its employees aged 45 and above to get inoculated against the coronavirus amid the massive surge in cases in the country. In an order to all its ministries and departments, the Centre said that inoculating all employees aged 45 and above was necessary to effectively contain the spread of the infection.

The government told its employees that they must continue to wear masks, wash hands frequently and observe physical distance even after getting vaccinated.

India on Tuesday recorded 96,982 coronavirus cases, taking the overall tally to 1,26,86,049. The toll went up to 1,65,547 after 446 deaths were registered in the last day.

Meanwhile, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan held a meeting with the health ministers of 11 states on Tuesday evening to discuss the steps being taken to contain the surge in coronavirus cases.