In this file photo a health worker prepares to administer a dose of the Covishield, AstraZeneca-Oxfords Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine, at a vaccination centre in Mumbai on April 1, 2021.
In this file photo a health worker prepares to administer a dose of the Covishield, AstraZeneca-Oxfords Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine, at a vaccination centre in Mumbai on April 1, 2021.
(Photo by Punit PARANJPE / AFP)

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government has announced it will vaccinate for free the approximately 5.71 crore people in the 18-45 age group in Phase 3 of the universal vaccination drive, beginning May 1. Around 12 crore doses will be required for this phase, the funds for which the government will provide from its kitty. This announcement was made by the Minister of Minority Affairs and NCP chief spokesman Nawab Malik on Sunday. The Free Press Journal had, on April 22, broken the story on how the state government’s likely outgo would be Rs 4,800 crore, for this purpose. Those above 45 years of age too have also been receiving their shots at no cost.

Malik told The Free Press Journal, “At the last cabinet meeting on April 20, we had discussed mass vaccination in Maharashtra and unanimously agreed that it should be free. The state government will spend the money, which is about Rs 5,000 crore, for this purpose. On Saturday, Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister Ajit Pawar had said that we would be vaccinating the entire population of the state above 18 years of age free of cost. It is clear that the Centre will not provide vaccination for the people below the age of 45 years, which will have to be done by states,” he noted.

Further, the government has already formed a high-level committee headed by Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte for the procurement of vaccines both from within India and through imports.

The cabinet had also approved dropping of the tendering process, by authorising the Kunte-led committee to take all decisions relating to not just the procurement of vaccines but also oxygen, medical equipment and related material.

As per the prices announced by Serum India Institute, it will charge Rs 400 per dose in government hospitals and Rs 600 per dose in private hospitals. Bharat Biotech will charge Rs 600 per dose in government hospitals and Rs 1,200 per dose in private hospitals.

Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are some of the states which have already announced free vaccination to people above 18 years of age.

Maharashtra continues to top the list for cumulative vaccination, with 1,42,30,313 having been inoculated as on April 25. In all, 14,09,16,417 doses have been administered to beneficiaries, so far. On April 24, a total of 2,17,244 people were vaccinated, through 2,608 centres across the state.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, at the video conference chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 23, had said Maharashtra had about five lakh doses of vaccine in stock as of now. He pointed out that Maharashtra has been the top performer in vaccinating citizens and therefore the state must get an adequate supply of doses to maintain its pace.

“Maharashtra has 5.71 crore people in the 18-44 age group. We will require 12 crore doses. Our vaccine manufacturers will not be able to produce the required doses in a short time. The corporate sector should also be given permission to purchase vaccines under their Corporate Social Responsibility obligation,” he had said. He had also sought permission to import vaccines.

Earlier, Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope said the state could vaccinate 6 to 7 lakh people daily if the Centre increases the supply.

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