The Centre will buy 75 per cent of all the vaccine produced in the country and provide them to the States free of cost, announced Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an address to the nation on Monday.
Modi said that from June 21 the government will provide free vaccines to all above 18 years. “No State government will spend anything for vaccines. Till now, crores of people have got free vaccines, now the 18-year and above segment will be added to this,” he stated.
Modi did not miss the opportunity to point out that the initial decision of a liberalised vaccine procurement policy was based on demands from the States.
The new policy will be rolled out in two weeks, he said adding that the Centre and the States will make work to new guidelines.
“The system of 25 per cent vaccines being procured directly by private hospitals will continue. State governments will monitor that private hospitals levy only ₹150 service charge over the decided price of vaccines,” he said.
Vaccine firms may lose out
According to observers, for vaccine-makers such a centralised procurement will mean loss of revenues as the Centre’s buying price is lower than the rate at which States were to get the vaccines. For instance, Serum Institute’s price for the Centre was ₹150 per dose, while the States were to get it at ₹300. Bharat Biotech’s selling price to the States was ₹400/dose. But the real deal will be revealed, say industry-watchers, when the Centre procures from Pfizer or Moderna or imports the Russian vaccine Sputnik V. “It remains to be seen at what price they will negotiate with the foreign companies and if it will it be more than what the government is allowing Indian companies to charge,” said an observer.
PM blamed for delay
Reacting to the government’s change of stance, Opposition parties said the Prime Minister should be held responsible for the delay in vaccination. Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said the PM had inflicted a huge cost on the people by delaying accepting the Opposition’s demand for centralised procurement and free jabs for 18-44-year olds.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said that the constant attempts to blame Opposition-run States are unacceptable when decision-making remains centralised in the PMO.
Clears the air
But the announcement was welcomed by other sections. “It sets the stage for a centralised vaccination programme and clears the air on differential vaccine pricing which had been under intense public debate. The government has also left enough space for private players to play their role in a ‘national mission’,” said Gurpreet Sandhu, President, Council for Healthcare & Pharma.
“We need to cover a lot of population in a short duration. The government must take private healthcare players along and keep the financial feasibility in mind,” said Shankar Narang, COO, Paras Healthcare said.
“Unfortunately, the cap of service charge at ₹150 will not cover the additional cost of offsite vaccination camps on transport, extra staff and doctor…” said a statement from Fortis Healthcare.
On the nasal vaccine, Nikkhil K Masurkar, Executive Director, ENTOD Pharmaceutical, said “… this will minimise the virus load in the body… nasal vaccines are cost-effective and efficient over intravenous injectable vaccines.
Garib Kalyan Yojana
Though the address was focussed on the vaccination strategy, the Prime Minister also said that the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana has been extended till Diwali.
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