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Why states will now jostle for vaccines

With vaccine hesitancy playing a huge part in the low vaccination uptake, the most optimistic projections estimate that India will vaccinate 40-50% of its population by December 2021.

Each state, hospital chain and pharmacy can now source its own vaccine. What is the price they’ll be forced to pay?

On 20 August last year, the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration (NEGVAC) was constituted and met for the first time. It announced that all procurement will be done centrally and also issued a very clear directive to the states asking them “not to chart separate pathways to procurement". Since then, the NEGVAC has met 23 times but hasn’t ever discussed any changes to this directive on centralized procurement. However, in a meeting this week chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Centre overturned this decision and has now allowed the private sector as well as the states to buy vaccines directly.

What this means is that our covid-19 vaccination programme will now transition from a tightly-controlled procurement and distribution model into a decentralized model, where each state, each hospital chain, and each pharmacy will get to decide the amount, the price, and the supplier of the vaccine.

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