Vaccinations will be opened to all above 18 from May 1, the government announced today after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a series of meetings over India’s response to record daily surges in Covid cases.
All adults can get Covid shots and states can buy doses directly from vaccine-makers in the “liberalised and accelerated Phase 3 strategy of COVID-19 vaccination”, the government said, on a day the country reported 2.73 lakh new daily cases in the highest spike since the pandemic broke out a year ago.
India began inoculating people in January using two Covid vaccines – Serum Institute of India’s Covishield developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Bharat Biotech’s made-in-India Covaxin. So far, the government had allowed vaccinations only for health workers, frontline workers and those above 45 in a centrally-controlled process.
In his meetings today, PM Modi stressed that vaccination was “the biggest weapon” in the fight against the coronavirus and urged doctors to encourage more and more patients to get vaccinated.
“The government has been working hard for over a year to ensure that maximum numbers of Indians are able to get the vaccine in the shortest possible of time,” said the PM.
Pricing, procurement, eligibility and administering of vaccines will be flexible in the latest round of the world’s largest vaccination drive.
Vaccine manufacturers have been incentivized to scale up their production and release up to 50 per cent of their supply to states and in the open market at a declared price.
States can now get additional vaccine doses directly from the manufacturers.
Here are some important new rules:
- Vaccine manufacturers will supply 50 per cent of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) released doses to the central government and will be free to supply the remaining doses to state governments and in the open market.
- Manufacturers will declare prices in advance for the vaccines supplied to state governments and in open market.
- Based on this price, state governments, private hospitals, industrial establishments can buy vaccine doses from the manufacturers.
- Vaccinations at central government centres, provided free of cost, will continue for those eligible currently – health workers, frontline workers and those above 45.
- The centre will allocate vaccines from its share to states or union territories based on the number of cases. Vaccine wastage can affect the quota of a state.
- The second dose for those eligible currently will be priority.
In recent weeks, states like Maharashtra, Delhi and Punjab had called for opening up vaccinations and had also complained about running out of vaccine stocks. But in a comment that became controversial in the state versus centre tussle, a senior official said: “The aim is never to vaccinate whoever wants it, but always whoever needs it.”
While vaccinations have been slow compared to the centre’s target, the country has clocked over two lakh cases daily in the past few days. Recently, the government fast-tracked approvals for foreign vaccines cleared in other countries.