HE Union Health Ministry has released revised guidelines for the implementation of the National COVID Vaccination Program.
Prime Minister Modi yesterday announced that all citizens above the age of 18 years would get free vaccines that will be procured by the Centre.
The revised guidelines provide that the government of India will procure 75% of the vaccines being produced by the manufacturers in the country.
“The vaccines procured will continue to be provided free of cost to States/UTs as has been the case from the commencement of the National Vaccination Programme. These doses will be administered by the States/UTs free of cost to all citizens as per priority through Government Vaccination Centres”, the guidelines state.
The vaccination will be prioritized as the following:
- Health Care Workers
- Front Line Workers
- Citizens more than 45 years of age
- Citizens whose second dose has become due
- Citizens 18 years & above
Within the population group of citizens more than 18 years of age, States/UTs may decide their own prioritization factoring in the vaccine supply schedule.
Vaccine doses provided free of cost by the Government of India will be allocated to States/UTs based on criteria such as population, disease burden and the progress of vaccination. Wastage of vaccine will affect the allocation negatively.
As per the revised guidelines, the price of vaccine doses for private hospitals would be declared by each vaccine manufacturer, and any subsequent changes would be notified in advance. The private hospitals may charge up to a maximum of Rupees 150 per dose as service charges. State Governments may monitor the price being so charged.
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.
All government and private vaccination centers would also provide onsite registration facility, available both for individuals as well as groups of individuals, for which detailed procedure is to be finalized and published by States/UTs, in order to minimize any inconvenience to citizens.
States may also optimally utilize the Common Service Centres and Call Centres to facilitate prior booking by citizens.
On May 31, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat observed that the “the policy of the Central Government for conducting free vaccination themselves for groups under the first two phases, and replacing it with paid vaccination by the State/UT Governments and private hospitals for the persons between 18-44 years is, prima facie, arbitrary and irrational”,
It also directed the Centre to clarify how the 35000 crores earmarked in the Union budget for procuring vaccines had been spent so far and why they could not be utilized for vaccinating persons aged 18-44 years.
The court also summoned all the documents and file notings on the Centre’s vaccination policy.
It also observed that the digital divide in India, particularly between the rural and urban areas could have serious implications on the fundamental right to equality and the right to health of persons within the age group of 18-44 years given the government’s vaccination policy.