Centre revises vaccine policy, to provide free Covid shots to states for adults

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, however, said private hospitals can continue to procure 25 per cent of the doses and their service charge will be capped at Rs 150 per dose over the fixed price of vaccines.

In his televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that states will no longer have to procure Covid-19 vaccines directly and the Centre will distribute doses for free to the states. Under the new centralized procurement plan, the Centre will therefore obtain 75 per cent of vaccines in the country.

All vaccines procured under this 75 per cent centralised quota will be administered for free to all adults in the country starting from June 21, the Prime Minister said. However, private hospitals can continue to procure 25 per cent of the doses, but their service charge will be capped at Rs 150 per dose over the fixed price of vaccines, he added.

The Centre’s decision to directly purchase 75 per cent of the vaccines from manufactures essentially takes away the 25 per cent quota under which states were previously required to procure doses directly. It, therefore, means states will get vaccines from the Centre for free and they do not have to undertake the burden of procuring doses directly.

The move comes at a time when global tenders floated by states to procure vaccines directly from manufacturers have failed to attract any bidders. Most of these manufactures have reportedly said that they would prefer to sell doses directly to the Centre. After Moderna conveyed to Punjab last week it won’t sell directly to states, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said both Pfizer and Moderna have made it known to Delhi that they will communicate only with the Union government.

On May 1, the Centre had expanded vaccine coverage to the 18-44 age group, opened the market, introduced differential pricing and public-private split in supplies.

Amid the crisis, with vaccine shortages being reported from many states, there was a growing chorus for the Centre to step in and procure all vaccines directly.

The Indian Express had reported that with the criticism growing, the Centre was rethinking the vaccine procurement policy. “If all states want the Union government to centrally procure, we will discuss it. We are willing to consider such a request,” a top government source had told The Indian Express Sunday.

The Supreme Court had earlier said that the Centre’s policy of arranging free Covid-19 vaccine jabs for the 45-plus age category, heathcare and frontline workers while asking the 18-44 age group to pay for the vaccination by state and Union territory governments and private hospitals was “prima facie arbitrary and irrational”. It had also asked the Centre must place on record a roadmap of the projected availability of vaccines until December 31 this year.

Announcing the decision, Modi said, “Today, a decision has been taken that Centre will now also bear the responsibility of 25 per cent of the work related to vaccination with the states…From Monday, June 21, in every state of the country, for all citizens above the age of 18 years, the Government of India will provide free vaccine to the states. The Centre itself will buy 75 per cent of the total vaccine production from vaccine manufacturers and give it free to the state governments.”

He added, “No state government of the country will have to spend anything on the vaccine. Till now crores of people of the country have got free vaccines. Now people who are 18 and above will also join it. Only the Government of India will provide free vaccine to all.”

The Prime Minister also said that the speed of vaccine production and coverage has increased in the country in recent times. “If you look at the history of the last 50-60 years, it used to take India decades to get the vaccines from abroad. Everything used to be completed abroad, and even then vaccination work could not start in our country,” he said.

He added, “In the last one year, we have launched two made-in-India vaccines. More than 23 crore vaccine doses have been administered till date…Today seven companies in the country are producing vaccines. Trial of three more vaccines is also in an advanced stage. Research on a nasal vaccine is also going on now.”

Addressing the issue of vaccine shortages, Modi said, “Supply will be increasing in the coming days. Experts have also expressed concerns about children. In this direction, the trial of two vaccines is underway.”

Stating this is the deadliest pandemic in the last 100 years, Modi said the country has tackled the crisis at many levels, with medical infrastructure being massively upgraded. “New health infrastructure has been developed in the 1.5 years with Covid hospitals being created, ventilators beds set up and a network of testing labs created. During the 2nd wave in April-May, demand for medical oxygen increased at an unprecedented rate,” he said.

PM Modi also announced on the occasion that Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana will now be extended till Diwali under which 80 crore people will be given free ration. “In this time of pandemic, the government is standing by the poor in every need. That is, by November, free food grains will be available in fixed quantity every month to more than 80 crore people,” he said.

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