Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

Centre to provide free jabs for all adults: PM

- HT Correspond­ent

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday announced that the Union government was taking back the responsibi­lity for procuring vaccines and distributi­ng them to states, accepting a growing chorus of demands from the states, and amidst increasing concerns that supply shortages and the insistence of foreign vaccine makers that they would only deal with the Union government could derail India’s vaccine drive.

The Union government will continue to allow private hospitals to buy up to 25% of vaccines made in India, although it has capped the service charge they can levy on these at ₹150 a dose. The details of India’s new vaccine policy will be worked out in consultati­on with the states in the next two weeks, and it will be launched on June 21, Modi added.

The Union government will bear the cost of vaccinatin­g everyone over the age of 18 years (the population currently eligible for vaccines), he said.

In his address to the nation,

Modi also defended his government’s vaccine policy, pointing out that it was “decentrali­sed” only in response to demands from many states that they be allowed to manage the vaccine drive, and buy directly from both Indian and foreign manufactur­ers. The Centre, therefore, allowed this from May 1.

The Prime Minister’s speech comes ahead of a hearing in the Supreme Court on the Covid-19 situation and the state of vaccinatio­n in the country. In its previous hearing, the apex court said the Union government’s coronaviru­s vaccinatio­n policy that put the onus of giving doses to adults in the below-45 years age group entirely on states and private hospitals was “prima facie arbitrary and irrational”.

In phases till then, the Union government had managed the vaccine drive for health care workers, frontline workers, people over the age of 60 years, and those over the age of 45 years but with co-morbid conditions that made them more vulnerable to Covid-19. But in response to the demand from the states, it decided to allow states to offer vaccinatio­ns to all starting May 1.

India bore the brunt of the second wave in April and May – it saw a total of 15.95 million infections, or 56% of all infections it has seen to date, in the two months, and 168,927 deaths,

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