Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has informed that a plan is in place to begin vaccination drive for around 27 crore Indians above the age of 50. Vardhan said that three weeks from now, the government will start giving doses of coronavirus vaccines to the priority group. However, a decision on whether the vaccine will be administered free of cost is being discussed by the expert group, he said.
Vardhan on Monday said that the decision on administering the vaccine free to the priority group will be taken after consulting with the states.
“As far as the intention of the government is considered, the Finance Minister, in her Budget speech, promised to keep Rs 35,000 crore for vaccination… she said that if there is a need the government might consider (increasing) it further,” he said.
“The strategy of 26 crore is being deliberated upon by the expert group. As soon as the decision on these aspects is taken (it will be communicated)…” he told reporters when asked whether vaccine for the priority group will be given free of cost.
In first phase of vaccination, government provided free vaccine across the nation to most prioritised beneficiaries that included 3 crore people (1 crore healthcare and 2 crore frontline workers).
Vardhan also said that India crossed the 85-lakh mark in administering the vaccine – 98,118 beneficiaries were given the second dose. He said that 80-85 percent of frontline workers have been vaccinated.
About 18-19 coronavirus vaccine candidates are in different clinical trial stages and may be available in the coming months, he said.
India has approved two vaccines -- Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech and Covishield from the Oxford/AstraZeneca stable being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India -- for emergency use in the country.
With India supplying the COVID-19 vaccine to several countries, according to Vardhan, about 20-25 nations will avail the vaccine.