Modi announces revised Covid vaccine policy, 44 crore doses ordered

Forty-four crore doses of Covid vaccines have been ordered which will be available from August, the Indian government said amid a raging shortage that forced a closure of vaccine centers in many states. These doses will be delivered between August and December 2021, the Union Health Ministry said.

The health ministry announcement — that orders have been placed for 25 crore doses of Covishield and 19 crore doses of Covaxin to achieve universalization of vaccination — came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a fresh vaccine policy.

The new policy takes back the onus of vaccine purchase from the states. The finance ministry said that the new program will cost around ₹ 50,000 crore and the Centre has the necessary funds.

Last week, the government said it has booked 30 crore doses of Hyderabad-based Biological-E’s Covid vaccine, which is undergoing clinical trial.

The procurement issue became a matter of huge controversy as the coronavirus ravaged the country in the second wave and exposed the massive shortcomings in the healthcare sector, especially in rural areas.

The Indian Supreme Court strongly criticized the vaccine policy, calling it “prima facie arbitrary and irrational” and demanded a blueprint of the way ahead. The judges strongly hinted that a do-over was in order.

The vaccination programme will retain priority categorization for health workers, frontline workers, 45-plus people and those due for second doses followed by the 18-44 age group while also facilitating supply and payment for jabs procured by private hospitals through the National Health Authority’s e-platform. States though may decide their own prioritization factoring in supply schedules.

According to a government release, private hospitals will charge a maximum of Rs 780 for a shot of Covishield, Rs 1,410 for Covaxin and Rs 1,145 for Sputnik V.

The NHA’s role is to ensure small and remote private hospitals get timely and equitable access to vaccines and states are to aid the process by aggregating demand keeping in mind regional balance and size of establishments. The formula for the Centre’s allocation to states is largely unchanged, going by caseload, population and negative marks for wastage.

Importantly, all government and private vaccination centers will provide walk-in registration facility for individuals as well as groups of people. “All citizens irrespective of their income status are entitled to free vaccination. Those who have the ability to pay are encouraged to use a private hospital’s vaccination center,” the guidelines said.

There will also be non-transferable electronic vouchers to encourage people to help with vaccination of the economically weaker section. These vouchers can be redeemed only at private vaccination centers.

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