Don't have fixed timeline to vaccinate all against Covid, says govt

There is no fixed timeline for completion of the ongoing vaccination drive in the country, the health ministry said in Parliament on Friday.  “However, it is expected that all beneficiaries aged 18 years and above will be vaccinated by December 2021,” Bharati Pravin Pawar, minister of state in the health ministry, told the Lok Sabha.

Responding to a query by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Mala Roy of the Trinamool Congress, Pawar said there had been no delay in entering into purchase agreements with domestic vaccine manufacturers. “Advance payments have also been made to manufacturers for the supply orders placed with them,” he said.

The two MPs had asked whether the government had taken note of a significant delay in entering into advance purchase agreements with vaccine manufacturers, thereby adversely affecting the pace of vaccine rollout.

The government said it had spent more than Rs 9,700 crore on procurement and operational cost of vaccines, and placed orders for one billion doses till December 2021.

The health ministry said in Parliament that there was only a marginal difference in the purchase price of the two vaccines — Covishield at Rs 205 and Covaxin at Rs 215 — exclusive of taxes.  Pawar told the Lok Sabha that the price of vaccine for procurement by the government is negotiated by National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC) and its subgroups involving detailed deliberations with the vaccine manufacturers.

She said the cost of vaccines includes its delivery in a temperature-controlled environment to the consignee points communicated by the government to the manufacturer.

The health ministry in response to a separate question said as of July 20, 2021, 326 million people have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine. Of them, 85 million had received both shots.

The government has spent Rs 800 crore on the purchase of vaccines out of the Budget outlay of Rs 35,000 crore. Till July 20, 2021, 425 million doses have been supplied to the states through all sources. More than 403 million doses have been utilized during the ongoing vaccination drive.

While sharing the data regarding 11 per cent of the total Covid-19 cases reported in people aged less than 20 years in the country, the government said clinical trials for vaccines for children were underway.

On the third wave, health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said there was no scientific evidence — either from India or globally — to show that children get disproportionately infected with Covid-19, including the delta variant.

He said health was a state subject and the Centre was extending technical support in helping states strengthen their infrastructure. The minister also shared details of how the capacity of ICU beds, ventilators as well oxygen has been improved in the country.

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