India will begin universal vaccination against Covid-19 on Monday, following the Centre’s decision to give free vaccines to the states for the 18-45 years category from June 21, a move that is expected to help in scaling up daily vaccination numbers.
The aim of the government is to vaccinate all adults in the country against Covid-19 by the end of this year.
“As announced by Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi, the central government will be funding vaccination of the 18-45 years category also. The Centre will be procuring 75% of the total overall Covid-19 vaccine supplies, and distribute it among states for free to vaccinate all adults. More vaccine supplies are in the pipeline than before and the companies are also ramping up production; therefore, there should be no problem in covering the target population,” said a senior central government official aware of the matter, on condition of anonymity.
As per the existing liberalized and accelerated Phase-3 strategy of Covid-19 vaccination that started from May 1, in every month 50% of the total Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) cleared vaccine doses of any manufacturer would be procured by the government of India, which will continue to make these doses available to the state governments totally free of cost as was being done earlier.
This was for free vaccination of the population group of 45 years and above under the government vaccination programme. Two Covid-19 vaccines are currently being used under India’s immunization programme: Covishield and Covaxin. Serum Institute of India locally manufactures Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine under the brand name Covishield, while Covaxin was jointly developed by Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council of Medical Research.
“Ultimately we will need to get everyone immunized, including children,” said Dr Gagandeep Kang, physician-scientist, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu.
To vaccinate adults in the remaining population group of 18-45 years category, state governments and private hospitals and institutions were free to procure directly from the manufacturer from the remaining 50% supplies.
India started its Covid-19 immunization drive on January 16, 2021, first vaccinating health care workers across the country, followed by starting vaccination facilities for front-line workers from February 2. From March 1, the vaccination service was opened up to general beneficiaries above 60 years of age, and those between 45 and 60 years with 20 specified comorbidites, and later it was announced that from May 1 everyone above 18 years of age was eligible to take the jab.
“More than 29.10 crore (291,054,050) vaccine doses have been provided to States/UTs so far, through government of India (free of cost channel) and through direct state procurement category. Of this, the total consumption, including wastages is 260,419,412 doses (as per data available at 8am today (June 20). More than 3.06 crore (30,634,638) Covid vaccine doses are still available with the States/UTs to be administered. Furthermore, more than 2,453,080 vaccine doses are in the pipeline and will be received by the States/UTs within the next 3 days,” the Union health ministry said on Sunday.