New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: In a piece of good news, the third phase of COVID-19 vaccination, in which general public of the country will be administered with the COVID-19 vaccine, is expected to start from the second week of March, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan informed the Parliament. During the third phase of the inoculation drive, people above 50 years of age will be vaccinated across the country.

Speaking in Lok Sabha on Friday, the Union Health Minister said, that the second phase of the inoculation drive was started from February 2 in many parts of the country during which around 2 crore health workers will be administered with the COVID-19 vaccine. He also said COVID-19 vaccination drive was launched on January 16 to vaccinate one crore healthcare workers in the first phase and it is going on smoothly.

"The second phase started in different parts of the country from February 2 in which vaccine is being administered to frontline workers whose numbers are estimated to be around two crores. After the completion of phase 1 and phase 2, it is possible that in the next month, the third phase will start in which citizens over 50 (years) will be vaccinated across the country," he said.

Informing about the date for the start of the third phase of vaccination drive, the health minister said that it is difficult to announce a fixed date right now, but it is expected to start in the second or third week of March.

"It is difficult to announce any fixed date (for the third phase) right now but it is expected that the third phase of the vaccination drive will start in the second, third or fourth week of March," said.

Asked if the government was contemplating providing subsidy to vaccines which will be available in the market, the minister said National Expert Group on Vaccine has been constituted and it will take the relevant decisions. Harsh Vardhan also said Rs 35,000 crore has been provided for COVID-19 vaccines in the Union Budget 2021-22 and Finance Minister has assured that allocation can increase if required.

The minister said the government “has sufficient doses” for the on-going phase and existing cold storage facilities under Universal Immunization Programme have been strengthened and are being used for storing vaccines.

India's COVID-19 infection tally climbed to 1,08,14,304 with 11,713 new cases in a day, while 1,05,10,796 people have recuperated so far pushing the national recovery rate to 97.19 per cent on Saturday. There are 1,48,590 active cases of coronavirus infection in the country which accounts for 1.37 per cent of the total caseload, while the death toll climbed to 1,54,918 after 95 fatalities in a span of 24 hours in the country.

Posted By: Talibuddin Khan