View from India: Centralised inoculation drive to kick off

In his address to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Government of India (GoI) will provide vaccination free to those over 18 years of age. State governments will execute the procedure which will happen across government facilities from 21 June.

The Finance Ministry aims to vaccinate 70 crore people with at least the first dose by September. The vision is to build immunity against Covid-19 and regain the momentum of economic recovery. Agriculture backed by a healthy monsoon and a softer lockdown will augur well for the economy.

The Centre (the GoI) will buy 75 per cent of vaccines from manufacturers and offer it free to the states. It will be administered for free to people over 18 years of age, regardless of their economic status. The private hospitals can continue to provide vaccines like before and can procure 25 per cent of vaccines from manufacturers.

What changes is the fee, as per the revised guidelines. The Centre has announced that private vaccination centres should not charge more than Rs 780 for Covishield, Rs 1,410 for Covaxin, and Rs 1,145 for Sputnik V. A standardised amount of Rs 150 as service charge per dose over the pre-fixed price will be charged. The Co-WIN platform has put in place the necessary validations to ensure that the prices declared by various private Covid Vaccination Centres (CVCs) do not exceed the maximum price indicated by them. Co-WIN, or Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network, is a digital platform to enable individuals to register via a portal as well as a mobile app.

While administering these vaccines, the payment in private hospitals can be channelled through the electronic platform of the National Health Authority. This is being done to ensure small and remote hospitals get timely and equitable access to vaccines.

The aim is to fast track the production of vaccines. The media has reported that seven companies are in the process of manufacturing vaccines and three more vaccines are in the advanced stage of trial.  

Modi has described the vaccination as a protection shield against the virus and asserted that the vaccine supply would be increased significantly in India in the coming days.

The pandemic has extended the horizon of drug discovery and pharma. The country has launched two made-in-India vaccines and over 23 crore vaccine doses have been administered. As the vaccine supply improves by August-September, the Finance Ministry has suggested that vaccination administration should become a 24/7 activity; the Ministry has suggested that technology needs to be leveraged to achieve such a scale.

It’s a holistic approach to vaccines, as the government has covered adults and has two vaccines for children in the trial stages. Being a national endeavour to vaccinate the people, India has opened out corridors of research and work on producing an intranasal vaccine for Covid-19 is underway.

The demand for oxygen increased phenomenally in April and May. “Never in the history of India has the need for medical oxygen been felt in such quantity. To meet this demand, work was done on a war footing,” expressed the Prime Minister. As per the centralised inoculation drive, the vaccines will be given free to states. However, the government will allocate vaccine doses to  states based on certain parameters such as population, disease burden, and the progress of vaccination. Vaccine wastage will affect the allocation negatively.

“Covid-19 is the deadliest pandemic in the past 100 years. The modern world has not seen such a pandemic. Our country has fought this pandemic at many levels,” said Modi. While addressing the nation, Modi stated that the government has decided that the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) programme will now be extended till Diwali, the Festival of Lights. The government has stood by the poor with every need, as their partner. “Till November, free food grains will be available in fixed quantity every month to more than 80 crore countrymen,” assured Modi. PMGKAY was launched last March to distribute food grains every month. A quota of 5kg per person is being distributed free of charge to ameliorate the hardship faced by the poor due to economic disruption caused by Covid-19.

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