In a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government has decided to allow vaccine jabs for all above the age of 18 from 1 May 2021. The Prime Minister said that the government has been working hard for over a year to ensure that maximum numbers of Indians are able to get the vaccine in the shortest possible time. He asserted that India is vaccinating people at a record pace and the country would continue this with even greater momentum.
Phase 1 of the National Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy was launched on 16 January 2021, prioritizing protection for Health Care Workers (HCWs) and Front Line Workers (FLWs). As systems and processes stabilized, Phase 2 was initiated from 1 March 2021, focusing on protecting the most vulnerable i.e. people above 45 years of age, accounting for more than 80% of Covid mortality in the country. The private sector was also roped in to augment capacity.
In Phase 3, the National Vaccine Strategy aims at liberalized vaccine pricing and scaling up of vaccine coverage. This would augment vaccine production as well as availability, incentivizing vaccine manufacturers to rapidly ramp up their production as well as attract new vaccine manufacturers, domestic and international. It would also make pricing, procurement, eligibility, and administration of vaccines open and flexible, allowing all stakeholders the flexibility to customize to local needs and dynamics.
The strength of India’s private sector vaccine manufacturing capability has been strategically empowered through unprecedented decisive steps, from facilitating public-private collaborative research, trials and product development, to targeted public grants and far-reaching governance reforms in India’s regulatory system.
This has resulted in Emergency Use Authorisation being granted to two indigenously manufactured vaccines (Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech), and a third vaccine (Sputnik) that is being currently manufactured abroad will eventually be made in India.
Vaccination for everyone: Key points to understand
The main elements of the Liberalised and Accelerated Phase 3 Strategy of the National Covid-19 Vaccination program coming in effect from 1 May 2021 are as follows:
1. Vaccine manufacturers would supply 50% of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) released doses to the Centre and would be free to supply the remaining 50% doses to State Governments and in the open market.
2. Manufacturers would transparently make an advance declaration of the price for 50% supply that would be available to State Govts and in the open market, before 1 May 2021. Based on this price, State governments, private hospitals, industrial establishments, etc would be able to procure vaccine doses from the manufacturers. Private Hospitals would have to procure their supplies of Covid-19 vaccine exclusively from the 50% supply earmarked for other than Govt. of India channel.
3. Private Vaccination providers shall transparently declare their self-set vaccination price. The eligibility through this channel would be opened up to all adults, i.e. everyone above the age of 18.
4. Vaccination shall continue as before in Govt. of India vaccination centres, provided free of cost to the eligible population as defined earlier i.e. Health Care Workers (HCWs), Front Line Workers (FLWs) and all people above 45 years of age.
5. All vaccination would be part of the National Vaccination Programme, and mandated to follow all protocol such as being captured on CoWIN platform, linked to AEFI reporting and all other prescribed norms. Stocks and price per vaccination applicable in all vaccination centres will also have to be reported real-time.
6. The division of vaccine supply 50% to the Central Government and 50% to others would be applicable uniformly across all vaccines manufactured in the country. However, the Centre will allow the imported fully ready-to-use vaccines to be entirely utilized in the other than govt. of India channel.
7. The Centre, from its share, will allocate vaccines to States/UTs based on the criteria of the extent of infection and performance. Wastage of vaccine will affect the criteria negatively. The state-wise quota would be decided and communicated to the States adequately in advance.
8. The Second dose of all existing priority groups would be given priority, for which a specific and focused strategy would be communicated to all stakeholders.