Health Union Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan in a press conference on Monday announced that the COVID-19 vaccine will be made available to the 27 crore citizens above the age of 50 in two or three weeks. Currently, Covishield and Covaxin is only being administered to the three-crore health and frontline workers of which only close to 87 lakhs have been vaccinated.
Even though the government has been bearing the cost of vaccinating the health and frontline workers, there is less clarity on who will be bearing the costs for vaccinating 27 crore people above the age of 50.
"An internal committee of experts is deliberating on this decision of how the vaccines will be distributed and paid for. We will discuss this in our weekly COVID-19 press conferences once a decision is finalised," stated the health minister
Each recipient is expected to be administered two shots of the vaccine in a period of 28 days. In the Union Budget for the year 2021-2022, the government has allocated ₹35,000 crore to COVID-19 distribution and intends to allocate more if required, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman stated.
If the government decides that the cost of the vaccines will be borne by the recipients, it is important to know how much each vaccine will cost.
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India, producer of Covishield has stated in several interviews that the vaccine manufacturer intends to sell the vaccine for ₹200-250 to the government, and when permitted to sell in the market, it will sell the vaccine for close to ₹1,000 per shot. If the government intends to continue vaccination at its centres, and not pay for vaccinating the 27 crore citizens, each citizen may have to pay close to ₹400-500 for receiving the vaccine.
If purchased off the shelves the citizens may have to shell out close to ₹2,000 for receiving the vaccine and another fee to pay the health workers who administer it to them.
The Indian government procured Covaxin indigenously produced by Bharat Biotech at ₹206 per dose while the marketed price is ₹295. As Bharat Biotech supplied close to 16.5 lakh doses for free, the value of each dose procured by the government decreased. The actual price at which Bharat Biotech intends to sell the vaccine to the private players has not yet been announced.
Citizens will have to wait for the government to take a final call on the costing and distribution of the vaccines. Experts believe that if the vaccine is not administered for free, it may affect the uptake of the vaccine.
Along with the already approved two vaccines, Russia's Sputnik vaccine and Zydus' Zync-CoV-D vaccine are in final stages of trials and could receive emergency use authorisation from the Central Drugs Standard and Control Organisation, the apex body in the country.
Updated On: 2021-02-16T18:33:22+05:30