The Centre’s recent revision of the vaccination policy and guidelines has come as a relief for many who waited with baited breath. Recognizing the difficulty faced by the state governments in funding and procuring vaccines, the Prime Minister announced that the country would instead shift to a centralized procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
The announcement bears a stark contrast to the central government’s policy in play since May 1, wherein states were asked to procure 25% of the doses from the open market and vaccinate the 18 to 44-year age group. During the initial vaccination drive, the Centre had procured and allotted vaccines to the states for the vaccination of healthcare workers, frontline workers and the 45-plus age group.
According to the PM’s latest directive, every citizen above the age of 18 will be eligible for free vaccination from June 21 onwards. Free vaccination will be conducted in all Centre and state-run hospitals. Previously, only health care, frontline and older citizens above 45 years were administered free shots at central government centres.
Interestingly, vaccinations at private centres will still be charged for. However, the government has imposed a maximum limit of Rs 150 which can be charged by private hospitals above the price of the vaccine. This means that private centres can charge a maximum of Rs 780 for Covishield, Rs 1,410 for Covaxin and Rs 1,145 for Sputnik respectively.
The Centre will procure 75% of all doses manufactured and will distribute them to the states, absolving them from all procurement-related tasks from June 21. The doses will be allocated to states based on three positive metrics – population, disease burden and progress of vaccination and one negative metric – wastage of vaccines.
As expected, healthcare and frontline workers will continue to get top priority at government centres. States have also been asked to prioritize the vaccination of 45-plus citizens along with individuals who have already received the first dose and are due for their next one. In his speech, the Prime Minister stated that India has already developed Phase-III COVID Vaccination which will play a crucial role in government’s vaccination campaign. “Today more than 23 crore vaccine doses have been administered in the country… The vaccine supply will be increasing in the coming days. Seven companies in the country are producing different vaccines and three vaccine trials are at an advanced stage,” he added.