Centre issues new COVID-19 vaccination guidelines: All you need to know

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Days after the Supreme Court called the national COVID-19 vaccine policy “arbitrary and irrational”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Centre would provide free vaccine to all adults from June 21.

Days after the Supreme Court called the national COVID-19 vaccine policy “arbitrary and irrational”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Centre would provide free vaccine to all adults from June 21.

He said Monday that the Centre would buy 75 percent of the doses from the vaccine manufacturers, including 25 per cent of the state quota, and give it free to the states.

As per earlier guidelines that came into effect from May 1, the Centre was procuring 50 percent of the vaccines produced in the country to provide to the states free of cost to vaccinate priority groups — those above 45 years of age.

As per a release, the guidelines were in response to the suggestions of many state governments to be given the flexibility to procure the vaccines directly and administer them as per their own prioritisation.

Many states later communicated that they were facing difficulties in managing funding, procurement and logistics of vaccines, impacting the pace of the National COVID Vaccination Program, said the release.

It added that keeping in view the aforesaid aspects, the Guidelines for National COVID Vaccination Programme had been reviewed and revised.

Here are the main elements:

1) The Government of India will procure 75 percent of the vaccines produced in the country and provide them free of cost to the states/Union Territories (UTs). These doses will be administered by the states/UTs free of cost to all citizens as per priority through government vaccination centres.

2) The vaccination will be prioritised in the following order — healthcare workers, frontline workers, citizens more than 45 years of age, whose second dose is due, followed by people who are 18 years and above. The Centre, however, has given a free hand to the states to prioritise within the population group of more than 18 years of age, factoring in the vaccine supply schedule.

3) Vaccine doses provided free of cost by the Government of India will be allocated based on different criteria such as population, disease burden and the progress of vaccination. Wastage of vaccine will affect the allocation negatively, the release warned.

4) The Government of India will provide the states/UTs advance information of vaccine doses to be supplied to them. In turn, the states/UTs will have to further allocate doses well in advance to districts and vaccination centres. They should also put in public domain information about the availability of vaccines, maximising the visibility and convenience of citizens.

5) Meanwhile, private hospitals can directly procure vaccines from domestic manufacturers. The procurement quota, however, has been restricted to 25 percent of their monthly production. The central government has also put the onus on the states/UTs to manage equitable distribution between large and small private hospitals, managing a regional balance. Based on this aggregated demand, the Government of India will facilitate the supply of the vaccines to the private hospitals and their payment through the National Health Authority’s electronic platform. This would enable the smaller and remoter private hospitals to obtain a timely supply of vaccines, said the release.

6) The price of vaccine doses for private hospitals remains the same as declared by the respective manufacturers who need to notify in advance of any subsequent changes in the cost. The private hospitals may charge up to a maximum of Rupees 150 per dose as service charges. The Centre has also asked the state governments to monitor the price, however, encouraging those who have the ability to pay to use the private hospitals’ vaccination centres. Also, the use of non-transferable electronic vouchers, which can be redeemed at private vaccination centres, will be encouraged.

The citizens can book vaccination appointments through the central government’s CoWin platform. Besides, the Government of India has asked the states/UTs to finalise and publish a detailed procedure for providing onsite registration facility at all government and private vaccination centres, in order to minimise any inconvenience to the citizens. States can optimally utilize the Common Service Centres and call centres to facilitate prior booking by the citizens.

India has so far vaccinated over 23.61 crore people against the novel coronavirus, including 33.64 lakh citizens on Monday, according to myGOV website.

The Centre had constituted an “Empowered Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19” under the chairmanship of the National Health Authority CEO in January 2021 to facilitate optimal utilisation of technology to make COVID vaccination all-inclusive, transparent, simple and scalable.

As per the release, India’s COVID vaccination programme incorporates recommendations of the “foremost experts in the field of immunization, public health, disease control and information technology”.

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