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Maha likely to provide free vaccine shots to all

Maharashtra may give free vaccine shots to all those in the 18 to 45 age group
By Faisal Malik, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON APR 26, 2021 12:14 AM IST

Maharashtra may give free vaccine shots to all those in the 18 to 45 age group.

State minority affairs minister Nawab Malik said a consensus was reached by the ministers in the last cabinet meeting that the state should give free vaccines to all in this category. He said a global tender will be called and the bidder that will provide the best vaccine at a lower price will be chosen by the state.

State environment minister Aaditya Thackeray in a series of tweets, too, said the state has decided to vaccinate its citizens for free, but later deleted the tweets and apologised, adding that the official policy of vaccination will be declared by the empowered committee.

Taking the nationwide vaccination drive into the next phase, the Central government allowed all those in the 18-45 age group to get vaccinated against Covid-19 from May 1. Declaring a change in its policy, it has asked the states to vaccinate this age group by procuring doses from the open market.

“The issue was discussed in the state cabinet meeting and there was consensus among all the ministers that the state should give free vaccines to all those between 18-45 years of age … The state will require around 140 million vials to get this done and are planning it accordingly… deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar on Saturday has said that they will call a global tender and will select the bidder that will provide the best vaccine at a lower price,” Malik said.

Another NCP minister Jitendra Awhad said that they have taken a major decision of vaccinating all for free. He also deleted the tweet after a few hours.

“We all had urged that the vaccine should be free for all. However, the decision has to be taken by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray,” said revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat on Sunday.

“The Govt of Maharashtra has decided to vaccinate its citizens free of cost. This is not something that we think of as a choice, but a duty that we consider of utmost importance: protecting the citizens from Covid,” tweeted the environment minister.

“We are also ensuring that the procurement happens at the earliest so that we have ample vaccines to keep the momentum of efficient, smooth and fast vaccination of all citizens of Maharashtra. A safer Maharashtra is our way to ensure a safer India! Likewise for other States,” he added in a series of tweets.

He also deleted the tweets in the next few hours and issued a clarification. “I have deleted the earlier tweet as to not cause confusion regarding the official vaccination policy of Maharashtra that would be fully ensuring fast, efficient vaccination and would leave nobody behind. The official policy of vaccination will be declared by the empowered committee and we must await its recommendation for a fair policy for all sections of society. My apologies for the confusion if it all it may have caused,” Thackeray said.

The state has formed a five-member committee which has been tasked to draft a tender to purchase vaccines from global vaccine makers. Headed by chief secretary Sitaram Kunte, the committee will facilitate the process of purchasing vaccines as well as drugs like remdesivir, an antiviral drug that is part of the Covid-19 treatment protocol, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said on Saturday.

The state is expected to float the global bid by early next week by taking the cabinet’s nod or the expenditure.

“The decision over giving free vaccines has to be taken by the state cabinet,” said a senior official, privy to the development.

Last week, Kunte had said a plan is being worked out as foreign import is now allowed and there is Bharat Biotech, we will get in touch with them. The vaccination drive for [age] 18 to 44 will start on May 1, but the stock is expected to be limited. In that age group, there are roughly 55 or 57.5 million people. So, we will require about 120 million doses, including the wastage, over a span of four to five months, depending on how soon we get the stock.

Additional chief secretary of finance department Manoj Saunik, principal secretary of public health Dr Pradeep Vyas, secretary of medical education department Saurabh Vijay and principal secretary of industries department Baldev Singh will be part of the committee.

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