Covid-19 vaccine for all above 18: Maharashtra to import; free jabs in Assam, UP
As the Centre opens the ongoing vaccination drive to everyone above the age of 18 years starting from May 1 and gives the state governments the freehand to procure vaccines directly from the manufacturers, states are exploring ways to step up vaccination so that maximum population can be inoculated against Covid-19 in minimum time.
Vaccination at government facilities will remain free in phase 3, as it was in phase 1 and phase 2. But in this phase vaccine manufacturers will be allowed to provide 50 per cent of their production to the open market after declaring a fair price.
Uttar Pradesh and Assam have already announced that vaccination in these states will be free of cost — irrespective of whether it's a private facility or a government facility.
"Corona will be decimated, India will win," Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who is under Covid-19 treatment at present, tweeted on Tuesday, announcing the Cabinet's decision to make vaccination free in the state.
Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma announced that the state will utilise the funds collected in Assam Arogya Nidhi and will provide vaccines free to everyone above the age of 18 years. The state has already placed an order of one crore doses of Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, the minister said.
The Maharashtra government has decided to import vaccines from other countries and, for this, funds allocated to other departments will be diverted, the government of the worst-hit state by the pandemic has decided.
"We have decided to cut the expenses of all the departments and divert the funds for vaccine procurement. We will not limit our plans only to the two vaccines that are manufactured in the country (Covishield and Covaxin)," Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope said. The state is planning to bid for Sputnik V, Pfizer and Moderna if they are available.
In the first phase of vaccination, which began on January 16, the Centre provided free vaccines to healthcare workers and frontline workers. In the second phase of vaccination, senior citizens and people with co-morbidities above the age of 45 years were made eligible for vaccination that remained free at government facilities and was charged ₹250 per dose at private facilities. The phase from April 1 was extended to everyone above the age of 45. Till then, vaccine procurement was being done centrally. But as states are accelerating the pace of vaccination to keep up with the rapid spread of the infection, the Centre's supply to the states is depleting fast and vaccine centres are facing temporary closure.
(With agency inputs)