The Centre has written to states and Union Territories to immediately undertake necessary measures to include people aged 45 and above in the COVID-19 vaccination drive and stated that registration on the Co-WiN portal for the same would begin from April 1.
The COVID-19 vaccination drive is going on in the country for healthcare workers, frontline workers, senior citizens and those aged 45 to 59 years with specified 20 comorbidities.
Till March 23, as many as 4.85 crore doses of vaccine have been administered to the prioritised groups.
On Tuesday, the government announced that from April 1, all people above 45 years of age will be eligible to get COVID-19 vaccines.
Union minster Prakash Javadekar said now even people without comorbidities who are more that 45 years of age can get inoculated.
In a letter to chief administrators of all states and Union Territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) has been guiding all aspects of the vaccination drive on the basis of available scientific evidence.
"From April 1, there will now be no need for a comorbidity certificate for people aged 45 years to 59 years," he said.
The Union Health secretary said the Co-WIN software is also being suitably modified for doing away with the need for confirmation of comorbidities at the time of online registration and on-site registration or for uploading the comorbidity certificate at the time of vaccination.
The registration on Co-WIN would begin from April 1, Bhushan said, adding the cut-off date is January 1, 1977.
"You are requested to kindly direct the officials concerned to immediately undertake necessary measures for expansion of COVID-19 vaccination drive to include beneficiaries aged 45 and above.
"Special focus should be given on optimal utilisation of the capacity of COVID-19 vaccination centres while minimising the wastage of vaccines," Bhushan said in the letter, adding, "The registration on Co-Win would begin from April 1, 2021."
The ministry, in a series of key messages to states, said the time interval between two doses of Covishield vaccine has been extended from the present four to six weeks to four to eight weeks.
Within this extended time interval of four to eight weeks, protection would be greater if vaccine is taken between six to eight weeks, but not beyond the eighth week.
Even if a person is automatically scheduled for the second dose, one is free to choose a day and date according to convenience between the extended period of four to eight weeks, the health ministry said.
It also stressed that there was no shortage of vaccines in the country and that people should not panic unnecessarily.
The government has a well-oiled system that regularly monitors total vaccine allocation, total consumption and balance of vaccine, and need for replenishment, it stated.
"Upon vaccination, you must insist on receiving a hard copy or a digital copy your vaccination certificate. In private hospitals, this has been included in the fees charged from you. You may use your observation period of 30 minutes to ensure that you get the certificate. Do not return home without it!
"If the hospital does not provide a certificate, the beneficiary may lodge a complaint at toll-free number 1075, the ministry said.
If a beneficiary has taken online appointment for vaccination on CoWIN, then there is no need to take any further appointment at private or public hospitals.
If any hospital does not follow these guidelines of vaccination, then one must lodge a complaint at toll-free number 1075, it said.