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India will begin the first phase of covid-19 vaccination drive from Saturday (AP)
India will begin the first phase of covid-19 vaccination drive from Saturday (AP)

House panel meets health officials, discusses efficacy and cost of covid vaccine

Members of the panel demanded that the vaccine should be available free of cost to the general public to ensure that it covers particularly vulnerable sections

Ahead of the beginning of the first phase of vaccination against covid-19 in India from Saturday, the parliamentary committee on health on Tuesday met top health officials where members demanded that there should be a greater monitoring of the efficacy of the vaccine.

Members of the panel are also known to be unanimous in their demand that the vaccine should be available free of cost to the general public to ensure that it covers particularly vulnerable sections. Tuesday’s meeting was called to discuss the issue of vaccine development, distribution management and mitigation of the covid-19 pandemic.

"The government has so far not given any commitment about whether the vaccine will be made available free of cost to every citizen. We have raised concerns about the questions being talked about the vaccines. We have asked for more clarification from the government," said a person in the know of development

India will begin the first phase of covid-19 vaccination drive from Saturday. In order of priority, an estimated 3 crores healthcare and frontline workers will be administered the vaccines, followed by those above the age of 50 years and those younger with co-morbidities numbering around 27 crores.

“Two of the main concerns that were raised in the meeting was about the demand for free of cost access to vaccines and second was about the efficacy of the vaccines. The officials informed that all necessary care was taken and due processes were in place but did not give any detailed clarity on the efficacy concern. Members feel that there needs to be a more effective monitoring in place," a second person aware of developments said requesting anonymity.

In the meeting on Tuesday, the officials present gave a detailed presentation over the current plan of rollout of vaccines. They added that the first phase of vaccination for healthcare workers is being provided for free.

“The general sense in the meeting was that everyone cannot get vaccinated but the officials said that the focus of the health ministry and top health related organizations is to put in place such preparations that a large number can be smoothly vaccinated. Committee members were unanimous in their demand for free of cost vaccines," another person aware of developments said.

According to the person quoted above, some members also suggested how the union government should give focus on how two key groups – people living in rural areas and those belonging to economically weaker sections – should not be left out and systems should be put in place to ensure they do not face any hardships to access vaccine.

Several parliamentary committees are looking into the impact of the covid-19 pandemic with atleast two other committees – one on science and technology and another on chemicals and fertilizers – looking at issues related particularly to the vaccine. The standing committee on health and family welfare was the first one to submit its report on the outbreak and management of covid-19 pandemic to Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu in November.

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