After Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the Centre is restoring its earlier policy of buying COVID-19 vaccines directly from the pharma companies and distributing them among the states, the Ministry of Finance has said the programme will cost around Rs 50,000 crore.
PM Modi announced on Monday that starting June 21, people over the age of 18 will be vaccinated free of cost. While 75 percent of the total vaccines produced will be reserved for the Centre, private sector hospitals will be allowed to buy the rest.
According to an NDTV report, the finance ministry said it had sufficient funds for the programme.
"We don't need to go for the supplementary grants immediately as there are enough funds. We may have to go for this in the second round, near the winter session of Parliament. At present we have the money," finance ministry sources said.
The sources also indicated that the government is no longer counting on foreign vaccines to meet its vaccine needs and will only procure doses from Bharat Biotech, Serum Institute of India and Biological-E, the report said.
The Centre’s talks with international manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna are reportedly stuck over the indemnity demand by the vaccine makers. The companies also demand that disputes in India related to their vaccines be allowed in US courts only.
The Mint had reported last week that the Centre had placed an advance order for 30 crore doses with Hyderabad-based Biological E.
As of June 6, 4,47,65,341 people (3.3 percent of total population) have been fully vaccinated, while 18,32,75,704 people (13.4 percent) have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
While presenting the Union Budget earlier this year, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced that Rs 35,000 crore had been allocated for COVID-19.
According to IndiaSpend, the Rs 35,000 crore ($4.7 billion) meant for vaccination can cover only 500 million people or about 37 percent of the population. As of May 3, 8.5 percent (Rs 2,993 crore or $405 million) had been spent, as per data released by the government.
The government had spent Rs 350 crore ($47 million) to procure 16.5 million doses of Covishield (11 million) and the indigenous Covaxin (5.5 million) and released Rs 123 crore ($16.7 million) to states and Union Territories for the vaccination programme, IndiaSpend reported on February 16, 2021.
In addition, the government spent Rs 1,732.50 ($235 million) crore for 110 million doses of Covishield and Rs 787.50 crore ($107 million) for 50 million doses of Covaxin on April 28, 2021. This is expected to last until July, IndiaSpend reported.
Thus, the central government still has nearly Rs 32,000 crore ($4.3 billion) left for this year, as per this calculation. At the rate of Rs 150 per dose that the central government is paying, this amount can buy nearly 2.1 billion doses, whereas India's over-18 population is 940 million in 2021, requiring 1.88 billion doses. The central government would need to use only 80 percent of the remaining funds to buy two vaccine doses for vaccinating the entire adult population, our analysis shows.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said 12 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be available for domestic use in June, and 216 crore vaccine doses between August and December.
Pune-based Serum Institute in a letter had said that it expects to supply 9-10 crore doses of Covishield in June. Bharat Biotech is expected to supply nearly ten crore doses of Covaxin by September.
(Edited by : Shoma)