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New Delhi: With the second wave taking new case additions to record highs, the urgency for vaccines has increased and some experts and state governments have been clamouring for reducing the age criteria for vaccination to allow a greater protection for the population. However, government officials on Tuesday said they are not keen on vaccinating people below the 45-year age threshold as of now, and instead prefer sticking to the global practice of protecting the high-risk groups only.

“There is a narrative that why aren’t we opening vaccination for adults... The basic aim is to reduce death through vaccination. The other aim is to protect your healthcare systems," health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said at a press conference, adding that these are the only two objectives and there cannot be another objective, especially due to the limited supply of covid-19 vaccine doses.

Bhushan’s comments come on the back of Maharashtra and Delhi governments asking the Centre to increase the vaccine eligibility to include younger adults as well from the current criteria of inoculating only people who are 45 years old and above and healthcare and frontline workers.

The two governments have sought an expansion in eligibility criteria after seeing a record increase in the number of cases in the second wave. After adding over 103,000 cases on Sunday, there was an increase of 96,563 cases on Monday, and both days Maharashtra added around half the total number of new cases. Delhi added over 3,500 cases on Monday.

The situation has led both state governments to impose night curfews across the state and they have also asked the Centre to allow vaccination of younger population who are seen as the bigger spreaders.

A similar call has been made by experts. India Medical Association national president J.A. Jayalal said that age restrictions should be removed to allow all people above the age of 18 to get vaccinated.

“If you look at the demographic pattern of covid infections, most of the people are of younger age groups because those are the people who are moving around very frequently. So for vaccinations, age restrictions should be taken away," Jayalal said.

On Tuesday, IMA wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggesting vaccination should be open to all people above the age of 18 years.

The association of over 330,000 doctors also urged the PM to allow private sector family clinics to be included in the vaccination drive along with private hospitals.

It also suggested that the vaccination certificate should be made mandatory for entering into public places and receiving products under the public distribution system.

A similar suggestion was also made by Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance director general Sudarshan Jain.

Both Jayalal and Jain suggested that import of vaccines should be allowed to the private market so that people who can afford it can get it administered.

“These vaccines should be allowed to be supplied in the private market at market driven prices, even to people who are less than 45 (year old)," he said.

With shortage of vaccines, especially Bharat Biotech International’s Covaxin, a concern, Jain suggested that voluntary licensing arrangements should be there among vaccine manufacturers to increase production of vaccines.

“There are companies who can manufacture these vaccines, like Covaxin. They should be given the opportunity to get into licensing agreement for production, and the government can facilitate that process," Jain said.

The Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India, a group of multinational companies in India, suggested collaboration between global vaccine manufacturers in India to increase production of jabs.

“It might be worth considering collaborations between global vaccine producers and mid-size and smaller manufacturers in India to increase the production in the country," OPPI DG K. G. Ananthakrishnan said.

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