India began administering ‘precautionary dose’ of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine to frontline workers and healthcare staff, as well as citizens with comorbidities aged 60 and above on Monday, with the fast-spreading Omicron variant fuelling a six-fold rise in infections in the week gone by.
India reported 1,79,723 new cases on Monday, most of them in the country’s biggest cities – Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata – where Omicron has overtaken Delta as the most prevalent strain of the virus.
The drive has been launched all across the country, with visuals various states showing the eligible population taking the jab to secure them against the heavily-mutated Omicron strain.
There were 146 deaths reported on Monday, bringing the toll to 483,936 since the pandemic first struck India in early 2020. Only the United States and Brazil have recorded more deaths.
The fast spreading Omicron variant has caused infection in hundreds of healthcare and frontline workers, including police. Nearly 400 staffers at Parliament have also tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of the budget session, prompting Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu to review the situation and direct officials to reimpose restrictions on employees’ attendance.
In view of the cases, both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have sent one-third of its staffers to work from home, officials familiar with the matter said.
In the drive that started from January 10, the government is not mixing and matching vaccines. This means that those who received to doses of Covaxin, will be given the third dose of the same vaccine in this stage of inoculation. Similarly, those receiving Covishield will be administered the same shot.
“The government is committed to provide additional security cover to healthcare and frontline workers on priority,” Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Twitter on Monday morning.
So far, about 67 per cent of the country’s 939 million adults have been given both the doses.