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In order to ramp up the coronavirus vaccination drive in the country, the Indian government on Monday announced a "liberalised and accelerated" Phase 3 strategy of COVID-19 vaccination from May 1.

Everyone above the age of 18 to be eligible to get Covid-19 vaccine, said the government.

The announcement comes after a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where it was noted that the "government has been working hard from over a year to ensure that maximum numbers of Indians are able to get the vaccine in the shortest possible of time."

He added, "India is vaccinating people at world record pace and we will continue this with even greater momentum."

In this phase, the government pointed out that pricing, procurement, eligibility and administration of vaccines are being made flexible. All stakeholders given the flexibility to customise to local needs.

India has administered over 12.38 crore covid doses, even as the number of daily cases breached the 2.7 lakh-mark, forcing states to impose local lockdowns and weekend curfews.

Here are all the details on Phase 3 of Covid-19 vaccination drive in India:

-Under the third phase of the vaccination drive commencing next month, the vaccine manufacturers would supply 50 per cent of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) released doses to the central government and would be free to supply the remaining 50 per cent doses to state governments and in the open market.

-Manufacturers would have to make an advance declaration of the price for 50 per cent supply that would be available to the state governments and in the open market before May 1, 2021, an official statement said.

-Based on this price, state governments, private hospitals, industrial establishments, etc would be able to procure vaccine doses from the manufacturers.

-Private Hospitals would have to procure their supplies of COVID-19 vaccine exclusively from the 50 per cent supply earmarked for entities other than those coming through the central government channel.

-The private vaccination providers would need to transparently declare their self-set vaccination price and the eligibility through this channel would be opened up to all adults, that is everyone above the age of 18, the statement added.

-Vaccination will continue as before in the government of India vaccination centres free of cost to the eligible population -- healthcare and frontline workers and all people above 45 years of age.

-Centre, from its share, will allocate vaccines to States/UTs based on the criteria of extent of infection (number of active Covid cases) & performance (speed of administration). Wastage of vaccine will also be considered in this criteria and will affect the criteria negatively. Based on the above criteria, State-wise quota would be decided and communicated to the States adequately in advance.

-Second dose of all existing priority groups i.e. HCWs, FLWs and population above 45 years, wherever it has become due, would be given priority, for which a specific and focused strategy would be communicated to all stakeholders.

The country's mega vaccination drive against novel coronavirus infection started on 16 January, 2021 with two Covid-19 vaccine candidates approved by the country's drug controller.

Currently, three vaccine candidates have been given Emergency Use Authorisation: two indigenously manufactured vaccines (Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech), and a third vaccine (Sputnik) that while presently manufactured abroad will eventually be manufactured in India.

"India’s approach has been built on scientific and epidemiological pillars, guided by Global Best Practices, SoPs of WHO as well as our India’s foremost experts in the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC)," an official statement said.

It also added that the country has been "following a dynamic mapping model based on availability of vaccines & coverage of vulnerable priority groups to take decisions of when to open up vaccinations to other age-groups. A good amount of coverage of vulnerable groups is expected by 30th April."

Phase-I of the National Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy was launched on 16th January 2021, prioritizing protection for our protectors, our Health Care Workers (HCWs) and Front Line Workers (FLWs). As systems and processes stabilized, Phase-II was initiated from 1st March 2021, focusing on protecting our most vulnerable i.e. all people above 45 years of age, accounting for more than 80% Covid mortality in the country. The private sector was also roped in to augment capacity.

In its Phase-III, the National Vaccine Strategy aims at liberalised vaccine pricing and scaling up of vaccine coverage. This would augment vaccine production as well as availability, incentivising vaccine manufacturers to rapidly ramp up their production as well as attract new vaccine manufacturers, domestic and international. It would also make pricing, procurement, eligibility and administration of vaccines open and flexible, allowing all stakeholders the flexibility to customise to local needs and dynamics.

The statement also added that as per PM Modi’s directions, "Government of India has proactively engaged and coordinated with stakeholders across the spectrum, from research institutes to national and international manufacturers, global regulators etc. The strength of India’s private sector vaccine manufacturing capability has been strategically empowered through unprecedented decisive steps, from facilitating public-private collaborative research, trials and product development, to targeted public grants and far-reaching governance reforms in India’s regulatory system. Government of According to PM Modi’s instructions, India is in regular touch with each manufacturer, including having sent multiple inter-ministerial teams on site, to understand each one’s requirements and provide proactive and customized support in the form of grants, advance payments, more sites for production, etc to ramp up vaccine production."

"Government of India has roped in the private sector in the vaccination drive right from the beginning. Now, as capabilities and processes have stabilized, the public as well as private sector has the experience and confidence to rapidly scale up," the statement further added.

Earlier on Sunday, Union health ministry ordered States and Union territories to ensure that movement restrictions imposed by them to limit coronavirus transmission does not adversely impact the covid-19 vaccination exercise, by restricting access of beneficiaries to covid vaccination centres (CVCs).

Meanwhile, according to the Health Ministry, India reported 2,73,810 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total number of positive cases in the country to 1,50,61,919. There are currently 19,29,329 active cases in the country as of Monday.

The death toll reached 1,78,769 with additional 1,619 fatalities.

In the last 24 hours, as many as 1,44,178 people recovered from the virus. With this, the total number of recoveries reached 1,29,53,821 in India.

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