The Kerala government on Wednesday decided to procure one crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine from private manufacturers for the third phase of the vaccination drive starting May 1, for those above 18 years of age. A decision in this regard was taken at a cabinet meeting chaired online by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. It has been decided to procure 70 lakh doses of Covishield and 30 lakh doses of Covaxin for the vaccination drive from May 1, government sources said.
The state has been suffering from a shortage of vaccines since the Union governmentâ€™s new vaccination policy restricted the number of free vaccines given to states from the Centre. While the Union government would buy 50% of the vaccines made by private manufactures for Rs 150 a dose to distribute to states, the remaining 50% were to be bought directly by states and private players for higher prices; states have to pay Rs 400 for Covishield and Rs 600 for Covaxin, and private hospitals Rs 600 for Covishield and Rs 1200 for Covaxin.
The Kerala government said that it will provide vaccines for free at government vaccination centres while the private hospitals would fix their price. Ever since the announcement was made by the state government, the Chief Ministerâ€™s Disaster Relief Fund has been receiving a large amount of money from concerned citizens, to help the government meet the expense.
On Tuesday the Union government asked private vaccination manufacturers â€” Serum Institute of India that produces Covishield, and Bharat Biotech that makes Covaxin â€” to reduce the price of their respective vaccines. The move came after criticism from several quarters over the Union governmentâ€™s new vaccination policy.
Vaccination for the age group of 18 to 44 years will begin in the country on May 1. Online registrations to book a vaccination centre for this age group begins Wednesday afternoon at 4 pm.