There will be a mini rollout of the universal vaccination drive on May 1 after all, it appears. Not only is it International Labour Day, it is also Maharashtra Diwas, and to mark the occasion, the state government is planning a symbolic launch of the universal vaccination drive, having received word from the Serum Institute of India (SII) that it will supply three lakh doses of Covishield at Rs 300 per dose by that date.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who chaired a meeting on Thursday to discuss a comprehensive free vaccination drive to cover 5.71 crore citizens from the age group of 18-44 years, has asked the administration to plan a symbolic launch in the event of the government receiving three lakh Covishield doses from SII.
A senior bureaucrat, who was present at the meeting, told The Free Press Journal, “It will be a purely symbolic launch and the free vaccination, based on the supply of 3 lakh vaccines may go on for the next three or four days. But the drive will begin in full swing by the end of May, as SII has conveyed that it will supply a substantial quantity of doses only after May 20. It has indicated that it may supply about 1 to 1.50 crore doses in phases. On the other hand, Bharat Biotech has said it will supply 85 lakh doses in phases up to October.”
He said the CM had insisted that the administration should streamline the immunisation process by planning ‘expectation management’, especially from youngsters. Further, the CM asked the administration to remove procedural and logistical hurdles in the seamless implementation of free vaccination drive, once the supply of assured doses is received.
Another bureaucrat said the government would explore the option of import of vaccines only after there was further clarity from the Centre. “As of now, Sputnik will have to be imported from Russia so there is no point in issuing any tender. It is a seller’s market and the government may have to negotiate the price quoted by Sputnik,” he said.
On the other hand, if Sputnik and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories were to produce the vaccine in the country through technology transfer, it would be treated as procurement from the domestic market. “In this case also, the government has yet to know the production plans and the price. One thing is clear, the government is looking at the procurement of multiple vaccines depending on their prices and availability, to avoid spread of mutants,” he added.