Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan
File Photo

New Delhi: The third phase of Covid-19 vaccination for those who are 50 years and above will begin in the next 2-3 weeks and the discussion on whether the vaccine will be administered free of cost is currently on, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Monday.

The decision on administering the vaccine free of cost to the priority group of 26 crore 50-plus people will be taken after consulting with the states, the minister said. At present, the issue is being discussed by the expert group.

Vardhan said that though the government intends to bear the cost of vaccination for the second phase as well when people over the age of 50 years will be vaccinated, no decision has been taken in this regard.

“As far as the intention of the government is considered, the Finance Minister, in her Budget speech, promised to keep Rs 35,000 crore for vaccination… she said that if there is a need the government might consider it further,” Harsh Vardhan was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.

“The strategy of (vaccinating) 26 crore (people) is being deliberated upon by the expert group. As soon as the decision on these aspects is taken (it will be communicated)…” Harsh Vardhan replied when asked whether vaccine for the third priority group will be administered free of cost.

"Through this Budget, we have brought in the dream of 'Health for All'. Our holistic approach, ancient medical wisdom, other health facilities and systems collectively will be a model for the world," he added.

The health ministry also said that a new flagship programme of the PM, Atmanirbhar Swastha Bharat Yojana, has been announced in the Budget.

"Budget has referred to a holistic approach toward health and health care. Allocation to the health sector for 2020-21 is 1.8 percent of GDP," a senior ministry official said.

18-19 Covid-19 vaccine candidates in pipeline

About 18-19 coronavirus vaccine candidates are in different clinical trial stages and may be available in the coming months, the health minister said.

"About 18-19 vaccine candidates against COVID-19 are in the pipeline and are in preclinical, clinical and advanced stages. We are hopeful that we will be able to offer newer vaccines to India in the coming months," Vardhan said.

India has approved two vaccines -- Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech and Covishield from the Oxford/AstraZeneca stable being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India -- for emergency use in the country.

Over 87 lakh vaccinated

Over 87 lakh people have received the Covid-19 vaccine so far, the data shared by the Union Health Ministry showed on Tuesday.

According to the data shared by the ministry, 87,20,822 people have so far received the jab. 4,35,527 were vaccinated against Covid-19 on Monday.

Vardhan had on Monday said that 80-85 percent of frontline workers have been vaccinated in the country.

(With PTI inputs)

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