Are COVID-19 Vaccines In India Free? Not Really

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that only the 1 crore health and 2 crore front-line workers will receive the vaccine for free

Multiple social media posts claiming that India is administering the two COVID-19 vaccines for free to all its citizens while other countries such as the United States are charging for the same, are false.

While India's Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan on January 2, 2021 said that the vaccine would be freely available, he clarified that the vaccine will be free only for the 1 crore health workers and 2 crore frontline workers. Details for the other 27 crore beneficiaries are still being discussed. The vaccines are also being freely administered in both UK and US.

BOOM came across several posts which are hailing the Narendra Modi-led government for declaring the vaccine as free. The posts claim that India is giving the vaccine for free while US and UK are charging ₹5000 and ₹3000 for one vaccine shot, respectively.

Another caption reads- "We Indians are fortunate that we have Narendra Damodar Modi as our Prime Minister" (Translated from -Hum bharatiya naseeba waale hai ki pradhan sewak ke rup mai narendra damodar modi jo mile hai)

The post is also viral on Facebook.

Also Read:COVID-19 Vaccine Fiasco Shows Regulators Not Following Rules: Experts

Fact Check

On January 2, Dr. Harsh Vardhan tweeted that in the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccination drive the vaccine shall be provided for free to one crore healthcare and two crore frontline workers. The centre is still to finalise the process as well as the prices for vaccinating the other 27 crore beneficiaries, he added.

Who Are The 30 Crore Beneficiaries?

Health workers include frontline health workers such as ASHAs, ANMs. Multipurpose workers along with nurses, medical officers,administrative posts at health facilities, paramedical staff such as lab technicians, pharmacists. Scientists and Research Staff, clinical and administrative staff, other health staff, drivers, sanitation workers, as well as all medical, para-medical, and nursing students will be included in this list.

Defence personnel from the Army, Navy, Airforce and Coast Guards along with the special police forces and state police forces will be considered among frontline workers. Permanent as well as contractual municipal workers including sanitation workers, waste collectors, cleaners, engineers, officers, drivers, maintenance staff will be prioritised to receive the vaccine.

Using the latest electoral roll for Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly election, the ministry will identify persons older than 50 years of age as of January 1, 2021. This group will be further sub-categorised into people over the age of 60 and those between 50 and 60. For identifying people under the age of 50 living with co-morbidities, health workers will go across homes to collect data for the same.

While the Union Ministry is still deciding what the price categories will be, several state ministries such as Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Assam and Pondicherry have already announced that they will be distributing the vaccines for free. The states that have not announced that the vaccine will be adminsitered for free will have to chalk a pricing strategy for the same.

Prices of Covaxin And Covishield

BOOM contacted both Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India to understand what their pricing strategies for both Covaxin and Covishield are respectively.

Bharat Biotech stated that they have still not finalised a price range for the vaccine and will share the information once the company takes a final decision.

Serum's CEO Adar Poonawala has been quoted saying that they plan to give the first 100 million doses to the government at ₹200. "If the government allows sale in retail, when we subsequently sell it in the private market, the MRP is going to be ₹1000 per shot. The vaccine needs a booster dose, so the total cost will be ₹2,000.

Prices of Vaccines in UK and US

As opposed to claims in the post, both UK and US are also providing the COVID-19 vaccines for free at public hospitals. In UK, the vaccines are available only through the National Health System which is providing the vaccines for free. UK has already approved the Pfizer as well as the Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccine. Both the vaccines are not available at privately owned pharmacies.

The American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also clarified that the US government is buying the vaccines through the taxpayers' money and will be administered to American people at no cost. However, vaccination providers can charge an administration fee for giving the shot to someone. Vaccine providers can get this fee reimbursed by the patient's public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration's Provider Relief Fund.

Updated On: 2021-01-08T15:20:07+05:30
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