New Delhi: No clear-cut or final decision has been taken on the roll out of Covid-19 vaccines in the private market yet, Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said Monday.
In a press briefing on the Union Budget, the minister noted that it will take time for the vaccines to be available in the private market since they still have only Emergency Use Authorisation.
“One must appreciate that the vaccines are approved under Emergency Use Authorisations (EUA). During the course of EUA, it is the responsibility of the government to keep things totally under control. This is the reason vaccines are still not available in the open market,” said Vardhan.
He also highlighted that the private sector was involved with the country’s vaccination drive.
“Out of a total of more than 1.73 lakh vaccination sites across the country, a lot of them are in the private sector hospitals,” said the health minister.
The central government granted emergency use approval to Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Covishield, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, in early January. India’s vaccination drive for healthcare workers began on 16 January.
No final decision on who will bear vaccine cost in second phase
During the briefing, Vardhan also noted that the government could begin vaccinating people who are above 50 years from March onwards.
According to the government’s estimate, there are 26 crore people aged above 50 years, and who fall under the second priority group for Covid-19 vaccines. Healthcare workers make up the first priority group.
However, he noted, no final decision has been taken on who will bear the cost of the vaccines for the second priority group.
Vardhan said that while the government intends to bear the cost of the vaccine for the second phase as well, no decision has been taken in this regard.
“As far as our intention is concerned (about vaccinating people), our finance minister during her budget speech has promised Rs 35,000 crore (for vaccination). I remember her further adding that if there will be any need, the government will consider the hike further,” he said.
“The strategy of vaccinating 26 crore is still being deliberated by the expert group. However, at this stage, no clear, finalised decision has been taken,” the health minister added.
The vaccines for healthcare workers were provided free of cost by the government.