Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday announced that the Union government is taking over 75% of the vaccine procurement and distribution in the country and will carry out vaccination of all those above 18 years of age for free. Addressing the nation, the Prime Minister added that the government will be taking over the 25% production given to states and will provide vaccines to states for free. Private hospitals, however, can continue to procure the earlier 25% of vaccines, but the service charge has been capped, the Prime Minister said.
“The government will vaccinate all those above the age of 18 for free. However, those who don’t want free vaccines, if they want to go to a private hospital to get vaccinated, they will be allowed to do so. In the country, 25% of vaccines are being procured directly by private hospitals, and this will continue. Private hospitals can charge a maximum of Rs 150 as a service charge on one dose of the vaccine. Supervising this will be up to the states,” the Prime Minister said.
Serum Institute of India has been selling Covishield to private hospitals at Rs 600 per dose and Bharat Biotech had said this price will be Rs 1,200. Now, at private hospitals, 5% GST is applied, so the cost of Covishield is Rs 630, and the cost of Covaxin is Rs 1260. Now, private hospital cannot charge more than Rs 780 for a dose of Covishield and Rs 1,410 for a dose of Covaxin.
The PM addressed the nation and said that the Union government will buy 75% of the vaccines produced in the country from the makers and every state will be told a few weeks in advance how many doses it will get and when. The vaccination at government centres will be done for free, the PM added.
The government also announced that the free ration scheme for over 80 cr people in the country has been extended till Diwali.
“Last year, after the lockdown was first imposed, we supplied free ration to around 80 crore people in need through the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana. This year too, this scheme was implemented in May and June, as well, owing to the second wave. Today, the Union government has decided that the PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana will be extended till Diwali,” the PM said.
The Prime Minister also warned people against spreading myths and misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine. The Prime Minister said that there has been an attempt to create doubt in people’s minds about the vaccine and cautioned people from believing them. He called upon the intellectuals and the youth in the country not to believe rumours.
“Many people spoke things that caused doubts in people’s minds about the vaccine. There was also an attempt to demotivate those manufacturing vaccines in India, to create obstacles before these companies. These suspicions and rumours increased when these vaccines were made available. There were many different methods used to discourage people from getting vaccinated. The country is watching such people. People who are creating doubts about the vaccine and are spreading rumours are playing with the lives of innocent people. It is important to remain alert about such rumours. I appeal to the youth that you get vaccinated and help in spreading awareness about the vaccination process,” the PM said.
The Prime Minister’s address comes days after the Supreme Court pulled up the Union government over its vaccination policy, calling it arbitrary and irrational. The court also questioned the Union government for making vaccination for the 18-44 age group paid at a time when the importance of vaccinating this particular age group has emerged.
India has been reporting a declining trend in cases of COVID-19 after a deadly second wave in April-May. Many states like Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have started partially lifting restrictions in phases.