Govt fast-tracks Covid-19 fight, to start vaccination for 18+ from May 1

Migrants at Kaushambi bus stand, after the lockdown announcement in New Delhi, on Monday | Photo: PTI
In a much-awaited move, India has allowed Covid vaccination for all above 18 years of age, starting May 1. The decision, taken at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, is expected to change the course of the pandemic currently raging through the country. India Inc and political parties have for long demanded the opening up of vaccination for all adults.   

In a departure from the current policy, the government has also allowed states to procure additional vaccine doses directly from the manufacturers. Vaccine supply to open market and industries has been permitted as well with conditions. In fact, the government will allow the imported ready-to-use vaccines to be entirely utilised in the open market. While the pricing arrangements have not been revealed, the latest announcement clubbed with the recent proposal to fast-track clearances could attract a host of foreign vaccine-makers, according to officials.

Vaccination would continue free of cost in government centres for healthcare and frontline workers and also those above 45 years of age, the government has said, indicating that jabs for the proposed 18 plus category would be priced and be accessible in private hospitals and open market. 

“In its Phase-III, the National Vaccine Strategy aims at liberalised vaccine pricing and scaling up of vaccine coverage,” a statement issued by the Union Health Ministry said. 

Vaccine manufacturers would supply 50 per cent of their approved monthly doses to the Centre, according to the vaccine policy for the third stage. They would be free to supply the other half to state governments and in the open market. This 50-50 division of supply would be applicable uniformly across for all vaccines manufactured in the country, while imported ones could be available fully in the open market, the statement elaborated.

The government has been working hard for over a year to ensure that maximum number of Indians are able to get vaccine in the shortest possible time,” Modi was quoted as saying in the statement. “Vaccine manufacturers are incentivized to further scale up their production, as well as attract new national and international players,” the statement added.

Manufacturers would have to transparently make an advance declaration of the price for 50 per cent supply that would be available to state governments and in the open market before May 1. Private hospitals would have to procure their supplies of Covid-19 vaccine exclusively from open market or through state governments. “Private vaccination providers shall transparently declare their self-set vaccination price.”
Based on the extent of infection and speed of vaccine administration, the Centre will also allocate vaccines to states from its own share. Wastage would be a factor which can work to the disadvantage of a state when getting its vaccine quota from the Centre.  “State-wise quota would be decided and communicated to the states adequately in advance.”

Ten States including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Rajasthan reported nearly 80 per cent of the new cases.

All vaccinations would be part of the national vaccination programme, and mandated to follow all protocols such as entering data on the CoWIN platform, linked to adverse effects following immunisation (AEFI) reporting. Stocks and price per vaccination applicable in all vaccination centres will also have to be reported real-time.

The vaccine policy also said that the second dose of all existing priority groups wherever it has become due, would be given priority, for which a specific and focused strategy would be communicated to all stakeholders.

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