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India administers record 75 lakh vaccine doses as revised procurement policy kicks in

Under revised policy, central govt is sole public sector entity to buy 75% of vaccine doses in India, procured at Rs 150 per dose from manufacturers.

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New Delhi: By 6 pm Monday, India hit a record high of 75 lakh Covid-19 vaccinations and there remains hope of doubling the previous high of 43 lakh doses (5 April) as vaccinations centres remained open for at least another hour.

Further, all vaccines administered in the government sector will now be paid for by the central government, procured at a flat rate of Rs 150 per dose. For beneficiaries, though, there is little change on the ground; vaccinations were always free in the government sector, only that state governments used to pay for the doses used for vaccinating 18-44 year olds.

Monday was the first day of the revised Covid-19 vaccination guidelines being implemented, under which the Government of India is the lone public sector buyer of vaccines and will procure 75 per cent of all vaccines manufactured in the country. The other 25 per cent will be bought by private hospitals who can add a maximum service charge of Rs 150 per dose. This means for the indigenous Covaxin, the maximum price that can be charged is Rs 780 (including GST), for SII-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine Covishield, the price is Rs 1,410 and for the Russian developed Sputnik V, the price is Rs 1,145.

Sputnik V, which is currently only imported into the country, is available only in the private sector, but the Modi government has made it clear that it will include it in the national programme as and when the vaccine starts being manufactured within India.

In reply to a questionnaire emailed by ThePrint, the health ministry clarified that vaccines continue to be procured from both Bharat Biotech (Covaxin) and Serum Institute of India (Covishield) at Rs 150 per dose. This is the price at which the Centre had been procuring vaccines from both manufacturers since March.

However, sources in the ministry say that the Rs 150 price tag may need to be revisited in the coming days as the companies have been unhappy about it. With the cushion of state procurement gone, the low price may not leave companies with enough to bolster output.

When the earlier “liberalised” policy had first kicked in, under which state governments were buying 25 per cent of all indigenously manufactured vaccines for the 18-44 age group, the vaccine price was much higher — Bharat Biotech charged states Rs 400 per dose while SII had charged Rs 300. This differential pricing was one of the main bones of contention that led to the revised policy, apart from the fact that vaccine availability became a serious matter of concern.

Also read: Centre to increase pace of vaccination in July-August, says Amit Shah

6 crore doses given in May, 12 crore expected in June

During the month of May, when the liberalised vaccine policy was followed, a little over 6.10 crore vaccinations happened in the country; in April the number was over 9 crore. Many states had to intermittently close down vaccinations for the younger age groups due to interrupted vaccine availability.

The health ministry told ThePrint that in June 12 crore vaccine doses are expected to be coming in, which would mean that India could potentially look at doubling its May number of vaccinations.

“Through Government of India (free of cost channel) and direct state procurement category, more than 29.35 crore (29,35,04,820) vaccine doses have been provided to States/UTs so far. As for availability of the COVID Vaccine doses, the States/UTs have more than 2.98 crore (2,98,77,936) doses which are yet to be administered,” the ministry said in an email.

Meanwhile, the Centre is also hoping to start procurement of Sputnik V soon for the national programme as the vaccine will soon be manufactured in India.

“That could happen as early as July and we could be looking at a monthly output of at least one crore doses,” a senior health ministry official told ThePrint.

(Edited by Manasa Mohan)

Also read: AstraZeneca vaccine’s chief investigator backs 12-16 week Covishield dose gap in India


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