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With India opening up the vaccination for all those who are 45 years or more from 1 April, the Centre on Wednesday asked states to keep vaccine wastage below 1%. At present, the national average for covid-19 vaccine wastage is 6%.

Rajesh Bhushan, Union health secretary and R.S. Sharma, chief executive, National Health Authority, and chairperson of the empowered group on covid vaccination, chaired a high-level meeting via video conferencing, with health secretaries, state mission directors of the National Health Mission and immunization officers of all states and Union territories (UTs) to review the situation involving the nationwide vaccination drive, and how well states are prepared for the next phase starting Thursday.

The government urged states to ensure timely utilization of available stocks to avoid vaccine expiry, and update vaccine consumption data on the CoWIN and eVIN portals.

“There is no problem in the storage and logistics of vaccines. There is no value in conserving vaccines for the second dose. States must promptly supply vaccines to all government and private hospitals where there is a demand," Sharma said at the meeting.

A key theme of the meeting was to identify low vaccine coverage pockets, particularly in districts recording a surge in covid cases, and for taking corrective actions. The central government also told states to ensure that only eligible healthcare and frontline workers are registered and administered vaccine doses.

The states were asked to archive incorrect or duplicate entries on the CoWIN platform for taking corrective action.

It said states should conduct regular review of capacity utilization at private covid vaccination centres (CVCs). States may also use geographic information system analysis of CVCs to ensure timely supply of vaccines and ensure the guidelines are followed proactively.

States and UTs were also advised to ensure there was no sedimentation in vaccine stocks at any level of storage or distribution, and to avoid overstocking or under-stocking at cold chain points and at CVCs. India’s mass immunization programme was rolled out on 16 January initially for frontline workers, including healthcare professionals. The next phase of vaccination, starting 1 March covered senior citizens of over 60 years, and for people aged 45-plus years with specific co-morbidities. India has so far administered around 65 million covid-19 vaccine doses.

On Wednesday, the country’s active caseload reached 5,52,566, comprising 4.55% of total positive cases. In the past 24 hours, active cases fell by 11,846 cases, according to health ministry data.

Five states, including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab and Chhattisgarh accounted for 79.3% of the total active cases. Maharashtra led with over 61% of the active caseload. Over 53,480 new cases were registered in the last 24 hours, with Maharashtra alone reporting 27,918 cases, followed by Chhattisgarh (3,108) and Karnataka (2,975).

According to a mathematical model developed by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, considering the current trend in daily case count, which is nearing 60,000 cases, the second peak of covid-19 infections will be higher than the first one India had witnessed in August 2020.

Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh account for 84.73% of the fresh daily cases, said the union health ministry. Six states accounted for 82.20% of the more than 354 deaths that were reported in the past 24 hours, with Maharashtra reporting 139 fatalities followed by Punjab with 64 deaths.

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