Everyone above 18 eligible to get COVID-19 vaccine from May 1
Everyone above 18 eligible to get COVID-19 vaccine from May 1
Photo: Pixabay

NEW DELHI: Increasing public pressure on the government on account of non-availability of Covid-19 vaccines at many places prompted Prime Minister Modi on Monday to "liberalise" the Central control over the inoculation drive.

This ‘loosening up’ began with a declaration to vaccinate all above 18 from May 1 and allowing the manufacturers to sell half of the vaccines directly to the state governments and in the open market at a pre-declared price.

A Health Ministry announcement said the states are also empowered to procure additional vaccine doses directly from the manufacturers and open up the vaccination to anybody above the age of 18. It said the Centre's free vaccination drive will continue for essential and priority population as also those above 45 years.

All stakeholders get flexibility to customise the local needs in the third phase of vaccination, covering aspects like pricing, procurement, eligibility and administration of the vaccines, the ministry said.

The decisions meet the prime demands of the Congress, the main opposition party in Parliament, to administer the jab to all above 18 and give a free hand to the states to buy the vaccines directly from the manufacturers and decide their distribution as per local needs.

A Congress leader said the decisions were taken to escape the people's wrath over shortage of oxygen and essential medicines, resulting in a spurt in daily deaths.

The Prime Minister said the government's goal is to ensure that maximum number of Indians get the vaccine in the shortest possible time. He said more sites are being opened to ramp up vaccine production.

The division of vaccine supply -- 50 per cent to the Centre and 50 per cent to the state government or private buyers -- is only mandatory for vaccines manufactured in India.

The sale of all imported vaccines will be allowed in the open market without restrictions.

With each person above the age of 18 coming within the ambit of the vaccination drive from May one, the nation will come closer to its goal of inoculating most of the adult population by end of the year.

Thus far, only health workers, frontline workers and those above 45 were able to get vaccinated in a centrally controlled process.

Experts feel lowering the eligibility threshold is a monumental step forward in the fight to beat COVID, though there is an overhang of issues like shortages, vaccine hesitancy and second dose backlog that still need to be addressed.

Centre will get 50% of the vaccines produced locally

Manufacturers will be free to supply the residue 50% to the state governments and in the open market;

Manufacturers would make an advance declaration of the price for 50% supply that would be available to the State Govts and in open market, before May 1.

Based on this price, State governments, private hospitals, industrial establishments etc would be able to procure vaccine doses from the manufacturers.

Private hospitals would have to procure their quota exclusively from the 50% supply earmarked for other than Govt. of India channels.

Vaccination shall continue as before in government centres and will be provided free of cost to the eligible population -- Health Care Workers and all people above 45 years of age.

The division of vaccine supply -- 50 per cent to the Centre and 50 per cent to the state government or private buyers -- is only mandatory for vaccines manufactured in India.

The sale of all imported vaccines will be allowed in the open market without restrictions.

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