The Centre’s decision to initiate policy changes to its COVID-19 vaccination policy in India has drawn praise from all corners. The government declared that everyone above the age of 18 will be eligible for vaccination from May 1.
The latest directive will allow states, private hospitals and other institutions to acquire doses straight from the manufacturers themselves. Hailing the move, Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute, thanked the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister.
He tweeted, “On behalf of the vaccine industry in India, I would like to thank and applaud Shri @narendramodiJi, @nsitharamanJi, for your decisive policy changes and swift financial aid which will help vaccine production and distribution in India.”
Under the new phase 3 of COVID vaccination, vaccine manufacturers will avail incentives to step-up vaccine production. These incentives are also expected to draw in more national and international players to ramp up the production of the much-needed doses.
Vaccine manufacturers have been authorized to supply state governments and markets with up to 50% of their stocks at a pre-declared price. In this regard, the states have also been permitted to procure additional doses from the manufacturers directly. They have also been directed to open vaccination for every citizen above the age of 18.
Vaccine manufacturers Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech will both receive financial help from the government to speed up their productions ahead of the upcoming drive. The Finance Ministry has green-lighted the advance payment to the vaccine producers without bank guarantee to hasten the production process. It was reported that Serum Institute would receive Rs 3,000 crore and Bharat Biotech around Rs 1,500 crore, bringing the total to Rs 4,500 crore.
India’s COVID vaccination programme has been divided into phases, with Phase-I covering the healthcare and front-line workers. Phase-II focused on the group above 45 years of age, which accounts for almost 80% of COVID related deaths in the country. The upcoming Phase-III will be the largest one yet and will lead to an imposing challenge.
Only time will tell if the policies adopted have been the right ones or if mistakes have been made. But until then, we will have to keep our fingers crossed and sit tight.