The centralised free vaccination policy began on Monday under which the government will provide free COVID-19 vaccine to all Indian citizens above 18 years of age. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the announcement in a televised address to the nation and said the central government would take over the nationwide vaccination drive, and the Centre would procure 75 per cent of vaccines and give them to states for free distribution to all citizens above the age of 18.
The Centre will also handle the 25 per cent vaccination that was with states till now under the liberalised plan announced earlier.
In a briefing on Friday, the health ministry had said states would be playing a facilitatory role by aggregating demand and vaccination capabilities of private hospitals in the state and ensure the administrations of vaccinations.
“There will be a systematic flow of vaccines to the private sector as well. I am hopeful that in this way, there will be a lot of energy in the participation of the private sector and vaccination sites will increase,” Dr VK Paul, Member, Health of the Niti Aayog said.
From June 21 (International Day of Yoga), the Centre will provide free vaccines to states,” PM Modi said.
“Whether it is the poor, the lower middle class, the middle class, or the upper-middle class, under the central government programme, everyone will get free vaccines,” the Prime Minister said.
Private hospitals will continue to buy the remaining 25 per cent and inoculate those willing to pay for their jabs. They can’t, however, charge more than Rs 150 as a service charge per dose over the fixed price of the vaccine, the PM said.
The health minister had stated that the maximum price that can be charged per dose by private vaccine centres for the three vaccines currently available in the country – Rs 780 for Covishield, Rs 1,410 for Covaxin and Rs 1,145 for Sputnik V.
Before the Centre’s takeover, it was the responsibility of state governments to procure and administer 50 per cent of the vaccines for citizens between the ages of 18 to 45. The Centre supplied free of cost vaccines to people aged 45 and above.
Chief Ministers of several states had urged the Centre to procure vaccines after manufacturers denied to supply directly. The shortage forced many vaccination centres across the country to shut down.
The Supreme Court had also slammed the Centre for the ‘liberalised’ vaccination policy for the 18-45 age group, calling it ‘arbitrary and irrational’.
The bench, headed by Justice DY Chandrachud, had asked the Centre about the Rs 35,000 crore earmarked for procuring vaccines in the Union Budget.
As per the union health ministry, as many as 27,66,93,572 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across the country so far, including 38,10,554 on Sunday.
As many as 5,42,21,110 citizens in the 18-44 age group and 14,42,38,142 0ver the age of 45 have received their first dose.
70,65,889 healthcare workers, 90,32,813 frontline workers, 12,27,088 between the age of 18-44, and 3,36,80,696 over the aged 45 and above are fully vaccinated.
As per a statement on Sunday, more than 29.10 crore (29,10,54,050) vaccine doses have been provided to States and union territories so far by the Centre through the Government of India (free of cost channel) and through direct state procurement.
More than 3.06 crore (3,06,34,638) COVID Vaccine doses are still available with the States/UTs to be administered, the statement said.
(With ANI inputs)