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Major overhaul in the vaccination policy announced by the central government is expected to expand the coverage of Coronavirus vaccine in the country to every adult aged 18 and above. Also demanded by several opposition parties and health experts, the centre has brought major changes in the fourth phase of the mass vaccination drive, the Indian Express reported.
What are the major changes?
The biggest change announced in the fourth phase of the vaccination drive from May 1 is the division of total vaccines produced in the country under two equal heads. While the Centre will procure 50 percent of the total vaccines produced, the other half will be sold in the open market from which state governments, private hospitals and industries can buy vaccines directly from the vaccine manufacturers. Now state governments, private hospitals and industries will be able to directly procure vaccines from the manufacturers as per their needs.
So far the centre would procure 100 percent of the domestically produced vaccines and distribute it among the states. While the Covid-19 vaccination at the government vaccination centres was free of cost for select beneficiaries, the private hospitals were allowed to charge upto Rs 250 per dose from the beneficiaries.
How will vaccines be charged?
As per the new vaccine policy, the 50 percent open market vaccine share will be used to inoculate those aged 18 years and above by the state governments and industries. On the other hand, the 50 percent Government of India share will continue to be distributed to the states for the vaccination of only healthcare workers, frontline workers and those aged 45 and above. As far as the pricing of vaccines is concerned, the vaccines distributed to states by the central government will continue to be free of cost at government vaccination centres.
How much will private hospitals charge for vaccination?
Since the private hospitals will not be provided with any vaccine stocks by the government, the private hospitals will have to procure vaccines from manufacturers themselves and pricing of vaccines will also be decided only by them. Since the private hospitals will be getting vaccines at a higher price from the manufacturers, the cost per dose of vaccine is certainly going to be more than Rs 250 per dose charged till recently. However, it also does not mean that the private hospitals will be allowed to charge skyrocketing prices for the vaccine dose as the centre has said that it will formulate a mechanism under which vaccine pricing by private hospitals will be monitored.
How will states take forward vaccination?
Since states will get their share of Covid-19 vaccines from the centre and will also be able to procure directly from vaccine manufacturers, states will need to plan their vaccination strategy meticulously. The central government has said that it will communicate to the states 15 days in advance about the number of doses they will receive from the central pool. Estimating its need and the number of vaccine doses supplied by the centre, states will be in a position to procure directly from manufacturers in advance.
How will the centre distribute vaccines among states?
Based on the number of active cases in the state and the performance of states in utilising the previous vaccine stock, centre will distribute the vaccines accordingly to the states. Currently, the vaccine distribution was demand based and the state that had more footfall at vaccination centres would receive more stocks. However, the central government will be prioritising those states which have wasted least of the vaccine doses and utilised the existing stock most efficiently, the Indian Express reported.
What will happen to imported Coronavirus vaccines?
The centre has said that the additional imported ready-to-use vaccines will be 100 percent sold in the open market and centre will have no role to play in the process. As and when the foreign manufacturers send their supplies to India, state governments, private hospitals and industry players will be able to purchase the vaccines directly.