No clarity yet on coverage, free of cost

Vaccine offered to govt. ‘slightly below our costs incurred’

The State government is yet to give clarity on the extent of population that will be covered for administration of COVID-19 vaccine free of cost.

The issue assumes significance as the administration of the vaccine is set to commence on January 16 starting with the frontline workers. The State and Central governments have assured that the vaccine will be administered to frontline warriors – those employed in the health, municipal administration, especially sanitation staff, police and other connected departments, free of cost, in the first phase. And, the process would be set in motion for other sections subsequently.

There is no clarity however on whether the government would foot the bill for other sections, the below poverty line families in particular, for administration of the vaccine. The Serum Institute of India which started dispatch of the vaccine doses to States has announced that 100 million doses of Covishield had been purchased by the government for a special price of ₹200 per dose.

Company chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla described the moment as historic and said the institute had offered a special rate to the government “which is slightly below our costs incurred”

The company decided to sell the rest of the 5.6 crore doses assigned to it at reasonable prices, a little more than ₹200. But the prices in the private market are likely to be around ₹1,000 per dose.

The State and Central governments have, in principle, hinted at supplying the vaccine free of cost for people aged over 50 including those with comorbidities, but clarity is yet to emerge on whether the State government took a final decision in this regard. With the State population pegged around 3.6 crore through the Samagra Kutumba Survey, the government should ensure vaccine coverage for little over 2.7 crore people leaving aside around 80 lakh children below 14 years.

Given the magnitude of the coverage, the financial implication would also be huge if the State proposes to administer the vaccine free of cost for all ages.

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