Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

Correcting the vaccine course

The Centre is right to take ownership of procuremen­t and pricing of Covid-19 vaccines


In an address to the nation on Monday evening, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi declared that the Centre would take over the responsibi­lity of procuring 75% of the vaccines (from the current 50%), and provide them free to the states for all those above the age of 18 (and thus relieve states of the responsibi­lity of procuring and paying for vaccines) from June 21. The Centre and the states, he said, would together work out the guidelines. The Centre also imposed a ₹150 cap on the service charge on each dose that will apply to the remaining 25% of vaccines which can be sourced and distribute­d by the private sector. The new framework is a much-needed correction in the vaccine policy.

The PM’S announceme­nt marks yet another dramatic shift in the country’s vaccine policy. Mr Modi said that the arrangemen­t between January 16 to April 30 — which was based on a phased rollout for priority groups, with the Centre procuring vaccines — was altered from May 1 due to the demand of states and other stakeholde­rs for greater decentrali­sation. He claimed that states then began understand­ing the complexiti­es of the vaccinatio­n process and asked for a reversal to the older system, citing it as the basis for Monday’s shift. But the truth is more complex, for it involves the fundamenta­l issue of inadequate supplies, although the PM did speak of how, going forward, more vaccines will be available in the country. India did set up an expert group on vaccines last April, but did not place any advance orders for vaccines, Indian or foreign. The resulting supply crunch, most evident in May, caused the Supreme Court to criticise the government for its “arbitrary and irrational” vaccine policy.

Still, the Centre has done the right thing now. Taking ownership of vaccine procuremen­t, providing doses for free, while leaving distributi­on to states and allowing the private sector to continue to serve those willing to pay is a better model. The Union government should now approve more vaccines (provided they pass the science), strike deals with vaccine-makers whose offerings have been approved elsewhere, and build a stockpile for this year and next. All stakeholde­rs must work towards a singular aim — universal vaccinatio­n. There are 940 million people over the age of 18 in India. Of these, 46.2 million had been fully vaccinated till June 6, and another 139 million had received one dose. The immediate objective should be to get these numbers up.

SOP on COVID-19 Containmen­t & Management in Peri-urban, Rural & Tribal areas. It lays down a comprehens­ive range of measures including surveillan­ce, screening, isolation, referral; home and community-based isolation and monitoring; a three-tier structure for institutio­nal Covid-19 management; post-covid-19

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