New Delhi: The Centre on Tuesday responded to the growing demands that the age limit for COVID-19 vaccination be relaxed in view of the spike in cases, saying the aim is to protect those who are most vulnerable, and not to “administer the vaccine to those who want it but to those who need it”.

Rajesh Bhushan, Union Health Secretary, said, "The approach is that those vulnerable to mortality need to be covered soonest. The aim to protect the most vulnerable. The aim is never to vaccinate whoever wants, but always on whoever needs."

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggesting that vaccination be allowed for all people above the age of 18 years. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Maharashtra counterpart Uddhav Thackeray on Monday also requested Modi to relax the age limit for the vaccination. Karnataka, Punjab and Rajasthan had also made similar suggestions in the recent weeks.

Niti Aayog Memmber-Health, VK Paul questioned, "When we talk about opening vaccination to all, our focus reduces on controlling the pandemic. Did you hear any country that is vaccinating less than 45."

"We have to focus on Covid-appropriate behaviour and containment measures. When the time comes to open it to all, then we will," he said further.

The tools to fight the pandemic remain the same. COVID-appropriate behaviour, containment measures, testing have to be implemented more efficiently, medical infrastructure has to be ramped up and vaccination drive intensified, he underlined.

COVID-appropriate behaviour like wearing masks, staying away from crowds have to be followed in a campaign mode, Paul reminded people. He said the number of coronavirus cases is increasing and along with that mortality is also on the rise. “Still, in terms of the population size and in terms of deaths per million we are doing well and the pandemic is in control.”

The Centre has been repeatedly stating that reduced testing, tracking and tracing as well as non-adherence to COVID appropriate behaviour and large congregations have been the major reasons behind the spike in cases.

India, the second worst-hit country in the world, crossed over one lakh daily coronavirus cases for the first time on Monday. Today, it reported 96,982 cases and 442 deaths.