New Delhi: From 21 June onwards, all citizens above the age of 18 will be vaccinated free of cost with the central government distributing doses to states, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in his address to the nation Monday.
The PM said his government has decided to acquire 75 per cent of the vaccine doses from vaccine makers, which will include the 25 per cent doses allotted to states and distribute them to state governments for free. This effectively means the Centre is taking back control of vaccinations from states.
Modi also announced the continuation of the free ration scheme for over 80 crore people in the country until Diwali.
“We have decided that now 25 per cent of vaccination doses assigned to states will be handled by the Centre. It will be implemented in the coming two weeks. Both the state and Centre will work as per new guidelines in the coming two weeks. From 21 June, free vaccines will be provided for people above 18 years,” the PM said.
The decision to distribute free vaccines comes close on the heels of states demanding central procurement of vaccines, after several states floated global tenders to procure foreign vaccines but failed to get a response.
Private hospitals, however, will continue to procure vaccines from companies, but the government has capped their service charge at Rs 150 per dose over the fixed price of the vaccine.
‘India ramping up vaccine production too’
Following a growing clamour from states that the vaccination programme be decentralised, the Centre had amended its guidelines to allow states to directly procure 25 per cent of India’s overall vaccine procurement from vaccine makers.
“Many states demanded vaccination to be decentralised … some voices even questioned why the Centre was prioritising certain age groups, including elderly. The central government took into account suggestions from CMs, leaders of various political parties to decide India’s Covid-19 vaccination drive,” Modi said in his address.
He added that after the Centre decentralised certain vaccination processes on 1 May, over half a dozen states, including Delhi, Kerala, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, started demanding a return to the earlier centralised structure.
The earlier decentralised policy allowed states and private hospitals to buy vaccines directly from manufacturers and administer doses to those aged between 18 and 44 years at a cost.
The Centre, however, continued giving free vaccine shots to those above 45 years and frontline workers. The Supreme Court, last week, called the Centre’s vaccine policy “arbitrary and irrational” given that it was free for some and not for others.
In his Monday address, Modi also said India is ramping up its vaccine production.
To increase vaccine availability, he said the government has already expedited the process of procuring vaccines from abroad. “Vaccine supply will be increasing in the coming days. Seven companies in the country are producing different vaccines, trials of three vaccines are in the advanced stage,” he said.
The PM also said that in the last year, India launched two made-in-India vaccines. “So far, we have already administered more than 23 crore vaccine doses.”
Further, the PM cautioned against rumours about vaccines and told youngsters to raise awareness about the benefits of vaccinations.
“This 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,” Modi said.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)
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