Commuters at Chandni Chowk, New Delhi, India, on Monday, April 19, 2021. (Photo by Amal KS/ Hindustan Times)
Commuters at Chandni Chowk, New Delhi, India, on Monday, April 19, 2021. (Photo by Amal KS/ Hindustan Times)

Free vaccines in Delhi for all adults, says govt

Capital approves the purchase of 13.4 million vaccine doses; asks manufacturers and Centre to ensure low prices of shots in use.
By Sweta Goswami, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON APR 27, 2021 07:25 AM IST

Delhi on Monday announced that it will vaccinate its entire adult population for free once the immunisation drive is widened from May 1, pledging to speed up the process of administering jabs as the Capital’s health care infrastructure remains overrun by a caseload that has been mounting amid an unprecedented fourth wave of infections.

In a digital news briefing, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said a purchase of 13.4 million doses has been approved and that his government will make efforts to speed up the process. “We are working on a plan to start large-scale vaccination as soon as possible,” he said. He also urged vaccine manufacturers in the country to reduce their prices and asked the Centre to consider a “one nation, one rate” policy for Covid-19 vaccines.

“As we are seeing, Covid-19 has wreaked havoc in the country. There is only one solution to this pandemic and that is vaccination. Delhi government has decided to give free Covid-19 vaccines to those who are 18 and above,” Kejriwal said. The free vaccines will be meant only for the residents of Delhi, even as the detailed plan of the drive was yet to be finalised by the government, according to people aware of the matter.

About 20other states have already announced free vaccines for their adult population.

The central government has announced that it will expand the Covid-19 vaccination drive to everyone over the age of 18 from May 1, a move many said was prompted by the worsening second wave of infections in the country. Registrations for vaccination in the next phase will open on the CoWIN app from Wednesday. While opening up the drive, the government allowed state governments to directly purchase shots, and let manufacturers earmark 50% jabs for states and private hospitals. It said it will continue to provide vaccines for the immunisation of people over the age of 45 for free.

Data shows that countries such as the US and the UK, which were overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases at the beginning of 2021, are now defying alarming trends as vaccination efforts are ramped up. Israel, which has administered the most vaccine doses per 100 people, recently recorded no new daily Covid-19 deaths for the first time in 10 months.

On Monday, Delhi reported 20,201 new infections, the lowest in 10 days, but only because daily testing dropped to a 27-day low of 57,690. The city’s positivity rate remained high with over 35% of samples returning positive for Covid-19. Only one state, Rajasthan (37%), had a higher positivity rate on Monday.

Delhi on Sunday extended by a week its lockdown, a “last resort” measure put in place to arrest the alarming spread of Covid-19 in the Capital, as the health care infrastructure remained overwhelmed by a massive surge in infections, with complaints of shortages of medical oxygen and hospital beds pouring in from across the city.

The chief minister’s office said the free vaccines will be available in all government-run Covid-19 vaccination centres in Delhi while those who opt for private centres will have to pay for the jabs.

“Today (Monday) morning, we have given approval to buy 13.4 million vaccines for Delhi. We are trying to procure these doses as soon as possible so people are vaccinated quickly. It has been found that those who have taken the jabs either do not get Covid-19 or have very mild symptoms upon contracting the infection. Mostly, those who get Covid-19 even after vaccination do not require hospitalisation, and even if some of them do get admitted, their condition does not become serious. If everyone gets vaccinated, Corona will be like an ordinary disease,” Kejriwal said. He gave the example of how the UK controlled its surge in Covid-19 cases by conducting mass vaccinations.

The Delhi chief minister again flagged his demand for uniform rates for the central and state governments in vaccine procurement. “One of the vaccine manufacturers is offering a rate of 400 a dose to state governments, while the other is quoting 600. But both the companies are offering their vaccines at 150 to the central government. My demand is that the rates should be the same for state and central governments,” he said.

He said the manufacturers are earning a lot of profit by selling their vaccines at 400 and 600 to the states. “This is the time to show humanity. This is not the time to earn profits. Across the country, the Centre and states have capped the prices of various medicines and treatments. I appeal to the vaccine manufacturers to reduce their prices to 150. You (manufacturers) have a lifetime to earn profits. This is not the time to earn profits from people when the pandemic has hit the country so hard. I also appeal to the central government to cap the prices of vaccines in the coming days,” he said.

He also urged the Centre to consider a vaccination plan for children.

“We have seen that a lot of children and adolescents are also getting infected by Covid-19, and some of them have died. So, the time has come to think of them as well. If the available vaccines are safe for them, the Centre should allow it for them. If they are not safe, then other vaccines should also be developed,” Kejriwal said.

Reports suggest that while the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may be approved for children aged between 12 and 15 by next month, younger children appear to remain months away from being eligible for any of the shots against Covid-19.

The chief minister also said beds were being increased further in Delhi to treat Covid-19 patients. “I inspected the Covid care centre at Radha Saomi Satsang Baes campus in Chhattarpur which has been opened for patients today from 10 am. Today, it has started with 150 beds, which will be increased to 500 in about two days, then 2,000 and finally it will be ramped up to 5,000 beds. There itself, we are also arranging 200 ICU beds as well. We are increasing Covid-19 beds across Delhi in this way,” he said.

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