“Today a decision has been taken that the 25% vaccination related responsibility given to the states will now be borne by the central government,” he said. “This arrangement will be implemented in the coming two weeks. In these two weeks, the Centre and the state governments will together make all the necessary preparations.”
The plan for this new arrangement, government sources said, was first presented to the PM on June 1 after completion of one month of the Liberalized Pricing and Accelerated National Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy under which the Centre picked up 50% of domestic vaccine production, leaving states to acquire 25% and private hospitals the rest. Before this, it was buying the entire output and sending it to states. It also lowered the age threshold from 45 to 18 from May 1.
“While many states did make a good effort, they also realised the challenges of undertaking such a big task. They also became familiar with global problems related to vaccines. And within the first couple of weeks, many states started requesting a change back to the old system,” said Modi, adding that Centre also considered the overall situation a return to earlier approach would be better.
Private Hospital Service Charge Fixed at Rs 150/dose
According to the new policy, the Centre will buy 75% of the local output and give it free to all states, Modi said on Monday. “This means no state government will have to spend anything on procuring vaccines,” he said. “Till now crores of people of the country have got free vaccines. Now, those above 18 years will also join them.”
On June 3, the Supreme Court had also come down hard on the Centre for giving vaccines free to some age groups and not to others, calling it prima facie “arbitrary and irrational” as all were equally vulnerable. The court had urged the central government to use its strength as a monopolistic buyer to get vaccines at a cheaper rate for state governments already in financial distress. It also wanted to know how the Rs 35,000 crore budgetary allocation for fighting the pandemic had been used and why it couldn’t go towards vaccinating the 18-44 segment free. The bench had asked for details of orders placed, the timeline by which the vaccination process would be completed and not imposing statutory price ceilings. The Centre had been given two weeks to respond by the court.
Private hospitals that buy the remaining 25%, according to the new policy, can only charge an additional service charge of Rs 150 over the cost of procurement, he said. Some hospitals said this margin would make it unviable.
The PM said procurement and the administering of jabs will be speeded up. The vaccination drive in India has been faster than in many developed nations with more than 230 million people having got jabs so far, he said. He also said the CoWIN site had come in for global praise with several countries keen on adopting it. He also referred to trials on kids and a nasal spray variant.
Modi responded to criticism about the handling of the pandemic, saying all manner of opinions had been expressed on the vaccination drive in the recent past, suggesting that this had forced changes in the original policy as health is a state subject.