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India’s new vaccine policy

India will dramatically expand its vaccination coverage from May 1, including everyone aged 18 and older. The fourth phase of the mass inoculation programme incorporates several changes in vaccine policy.

What are the changes in procurement?

In the first three phases, when healthcare workers, frontline workers, and those above the age of 45 were vaccinated, the Centre procured the entire quantity of vaccines from the manufacturers, Serum Institute of India (Covishield) and Bharat Biotech (Covaxin), and distributed it to states. The states distributed the stock to government vaccination centres, which administered the vaccine free of cost, and to private hospitals that charged recipients Rs 250 per dose.

From May 1, the supply will be divided into two baskets: 50 per cent for the Centre, and 50 per cent for the open market. Through the second — non-Government of India — channel, state governments, private hospitals, and industries that have facilities to administer the vaccine, will be able to procure doses directly from manufacturers.

What changes in distribution?

First, the 50 per cent basket of vaccine doses earmarked for states and private hospitals in the open market will be used to vaccinate those above the age of 18 years.

Second, free vaccination would be available at all vaccination centres that receive doses from the Government of India — with those doses, healthcare workers, frontline workers, and those above 45 will be vaccinated.

Will private vaccination centres still administer the vaccine at Rs 250?

No. Since no doses will be made available to the private sector, private hospitals will have their own rates.

So, what will be the cost of a shot at a private centre?

In the first three phases, out of the Rs 250 charged for vaccination, private hospitals received Rs 100 for administering the jab. Since they will now be procuring the vaccine at a higher price, the cost of a jab is expected to be much higher than in the first three phases. The Centre on Monday said the prices charged by private hospitals would be monitored. A mechanism will be put in place, and vaccine stocks and prices will be captured on the Co-win platform.

States will receive doses from the Centre and also make additional procurement from the open market — so how will they plan vaccination sessions?

This is not final yet. However, the Centre has said that it will be able to allot vaccines for 15 days — which means that states will know in advance that for the next 15 days, they will receive a specific number of doses. They will, therefore, have both a big as well as a granular picture of availability on date and for the coming fortnight.

How will the Centre decide which state gets how many doses?

The Centre will allocate its 50 per cent share to states based on the extent of infection (active cases) and performance (speed of administration). Currently, states receive vaccine doses according to demand (number of registrations and walk-in vaccinations). Now, low wastage will be incentivised.

Will imported vaccines also be divided among the Centre, states, and private hospitals?

No. The Centre will allow the imported, fully ready-to-use vaccines to be entirely utilised in the other-than-Government of India channel. Thus, if and when a foreign pharma giant brings its vaccine to India, it will be free to directly sell the entire stock in the open market at a competitive price.

Will those who have received the first dose — and whose second dose is due — be prioritised?

Yes. The Centre said that the second dose of all existing priority groups, “wherever it has become due, would be given priority, for which a specific and focused strategy would be communicated to all stakeholders”.

On what basis will vaccine makers decide whom to sell to — and at what price?

There are no guidelines as yet. The Centre has only said that private vaccination providers shall transparently declare self-set vaccination prices. States have not been given the liberty to negotiate prices.

Source: The Indian Express

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