Home / Politics / Policy /  Centre will continue to give free vaccines to states: Harsh Vardhan

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday clarified that the Centre will continue giving vaccine doses from its 50% quota to the states and UTs for free under its recently announced Phase 3 strategy of covid-19 Vaccination.

As per the new “liberalised and accelerated" policy to be implemented from May 1, offering Covid-19 vaccines to everyone above 18 years of age, the health minister said that Government of India's pricing shall continue for the free distribution bracket and these 50% vaccines shall continue to be administered by States and Union Territories.

Harsh Vardhan took to Twitter posting the four-page statement hitting out at those political leaders indulging in "needless politics" on the matter and spreading misinformation.

“While the dreaded disease is spreading like a tsunami, it was critical to ease the controls and allow a free hand to the state governments as well as the private sector," said Harsh Vardhan adding that he sees no reason why the states must complain now as they were demanding removal of restrictions on vaccine supplies to them. “Under the new policy, they have the liberty to directly procure from the manufacturers and even negotiate prices based on volumes. This will also cut the delays," said the health minister.

The new strategy gives states one guaranteed channel of free vaccine supply from the Centre, while they can simultaneously procure vaccines directly from manufacturers for which they can negotiate prices based on volumes, he said.

“It is a fact that Health is a state subject, where Centre essentially coordinates and facilitates the states. After we received requests from nearly all states to liberalise the vaccine distribution policy and pass on the control to the states, we decided to go ahead," he said.

Refuting allegations on the centre that Centre is getting vaccines cheap and States, the health minister said the Central Government does not give vaccines directly to anyone. “The 50% quota, that is at Government of India's pricing, is for free distribution of vaccines and distribution of all of this will be done through the states only," he said.

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

Harsh Vardhan also said several states like Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Kerala, Sikkim, West Bengal, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have already announced that they will inoculate those between the ages of 18 and 45 against the coronavirus free of cost.

“This is a welcome decision and under the new liberalised policy, they have the full freedom to do this, he said.

The balance 50% quota is also open for the corporate and private sector to "pool in their resources so that the combined effort of Team India can be deployed to vaccinate every adult in the earliest possible time," the health minister maintained.

Undoubtedly, Vardhan said, the private and corporate sector route will empower a large number of people to get themselves quickly vaccinated outside the government route. In essence, those who can afford to get them at the private and corporate sector rates shall go ahead, he said.

"The states, therefore, as per their own priority and commitments, have to vaccinate only those remaining people who have not been administered vaccines either through the GOI free route or through the private route. It is thus important to note that for the common people at large, there is and will always be an option to get vaccinated for free, to ensure that the price of vaccines does not become a burden for them," he said.

"Under the new policy, they have the liberty to directly procure from the manufacturers and even negotiate prices based on volumes. This will also cut the delays. I empathise with the states because they are leading this battle from the front and need fast replenishment of vaccine stocks. They need to decide when, how, how much and to whom. This is exactly what the Centre has done by easing the process," he underlined.

Stating that certain political leaders who have chosen to indulge in needless politics on the matter and are spreading misinformation at every step, whether it is about the efficacy or about pricing of vaccine, he appealed to these political parties to put the success of vaccination programme above everything else so that "we may save the lives of our people".

The union health ministry earlier said that vaccine manufacturers would have to make an advance declaration of the price for the 50% supply that would be available to the state governments and in the open market before May 1.

Bharat Biotech has fixed the price of its covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, at 600 per dose for state governments and at 1,200 per dose for private hospitals. Serum Institute of India has announced a price of 400 per dose for "Covishield" for states and 600 per dose for private hospitals. Both vaccines will be available to the central government at 150 per dose.

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