NEW DELHI: In a major decision aimed at curbing the raging COVID-19 pandemic in India, the Centre on Monday announced that it will open vaccinations for everyone above 18 years of age starting May 1, following a series of meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and different stakeholders.
It, however, also said that while the current vaccination drive will continue to cover the population above 45, healthcare and frontline, vaccine manufacturers will now be empowered to release up to 50% of their supply to states and sell it in the open market at a pre-declared price.
Importantly, foreign made, ready to use vaccines will be made available only in the private market or procured by states but will not be bought by the Centre.
States are also being permitted to procure additional vaccine doses directly from the manufacturers, as well as open up vaccination to any category of people above the age of 18 for the same.
As per the details shared by the Centre, in its phase 3 of the Covid vaccination drive, the national vaccine strategy aims at liberalised vaccine pricing and scaling up of vaccine coverage.
The government has mandated that manufacturers will transparently make an advance declaration of the price for 50% supply that would be available to states and in the open market before May 1.
Based on this price, state governments, private hospitals, industrial establishments among others can procure vaccine doses from the manufacturers. Private hospitals, on the other hand, have to procure their supplies of COVID-19 vaccine exclusively from the 50% supply earmarked for other than the central government channel.
“This would augment vaccine production as well as availability, incentivising vaccine manufacturers to rapidly ramp up their production as well as attract new vaccine manufacturers, domestic and international. It would also make pricing, procurement, eligibility and administration of vaccines open and flexible, allowing all stakeholders the flexibility to customise to local needs and dynamics,” said the Centre.
“Vaccination shall continue as before in Govt. of India vaccination centres, provided free of cost to the eligible population as defined earlier i.e. health care workers, frontline workers and all people above 45 years of age,” said the government.
All vaccinations, however, will be part of the national vaccination programme, and mandated to follow all protocols such as being captured on CoWIN platform, linked to Adverse Event Following Immunisation reporting and all other prescribed norms.
Stocks and price per vaccination applicable in all vaccination centres will also have to be reported real-time.
The Centre also said that the division of supply will be applicable uniformly for all vaccines manufactured in the country.
The Centre, from its share, will allocate vaccines to states based on the criteria of extent of infection and performance. Wastage of vaccine will be considered negatively.
Based on these parameters, state-wise quota would be decided and communicated to the states adequately in advance.
The Narendra Modi government also clarified that the second dose of all existing priority groups wherever it has become due, will be given priority, for which a specific and focused strategy would be communicated to all stakeholders.