The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued revised guidelines on the vaccination policy in India. This comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the Union government will take over vaccine procurement and distribute them directly to states for vaccinating all those above 18. The revised guidelines, which outlines how the Union government will distribute vaccines to states, will come into effect from June 21, 2021. It will be reviewed from time to time, the government said.
According to the guidelines, the Union government will procure 75% of the vaccines being produced by the manufacturers in the country and these vaccines will continue to be provided free of cost to states and union territories for free. States can administer these doses free of cost to all citizens above the age of 18 as per priority through government vaccination centres.
The Union government has said that it will prioritise doses in the following order — first for health care workers, then front line workers, then citizens more than 45 years of age, followed by citizens who are due for their second dose, and then citizens who are 18 years and above. For those in the age group of 18-44, states can decide their own prioritization, by factoring in the vaccine supply.
Private hospitals can continue to procure 25% of the vaccine supply directly from vaccine manufacturers. However, they can charge only up to a maximum of Rs 150 per dose as service charges. The private hospitals will also have to declare the price of vaccine doses by vaccine manufacturers, and any subsequent changes should be notified in advance.
“All citizens, irrespective of their income status, are entitled to free vaccination. Those who have the ability to pay are encouraged to use private hospital’s vaccination centres,” the government said.
The government also said that it will encourage the use of non-transferable electronic vouchers, which can be redeemed at private vaccination centres, so that people can financially support the vaccination of those from Economically Weaker Sections at private vaccination centres.
The supply to states will depend on criteria such as population, disease burden and the progress of vaccination. Any wastage will mean negative allocation, the Union government said. The Union government will inform in advance how many vaccine doses will be supplied to them. The government has asked states to allocate doses well in advance to districts and vaccination centres. “They should also put in the public domain the information about the above availability at district and vaccination centre level, and widely disseminate it among the local population, maximising the visibility and convenience of citizens,” the Health Ministry added.
The ministry has said that policy has been revised after many states communicated that they are facing difficulties in managing the funding, procurement and logistics of vaccines, which is impacting the pace of the vaccination drive. It has also been noted that smaller and remote private hospitals are also facing constraints, the government said.
This revision of the vaccination policy was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation on June 7, Monday. The Prime Minister said that the Union government will take over the vaccination drive to vaccinate the 18-44 age group along with the over-45 age group in the country. He blamed the state governments for demanding decentralisation of the vaccination process and then not being able to deal with the ‘obstacles.’ The PM said that the Union government will buy 75% of the vaccines produced in the country from the vaccine manufacturers and distribute them to states for free. Every state will be told a few weeks in advance how many doses it will get and when.
This revision comes shortly after the Supreme Court of India questioned the Union government vaccination policy, saying that it is “arbitrary and irrational” that those in the 18-44 age group have to pay for a vaccine when the Union government has earlier organised free vaccination drives for those above 45. 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.