Forty-four crore doses of Covid vaccines will be made available to the country from August, the government today said amid a raging shortage that has forced a closure of vaccine centres in many states. These doses will be delivered between August and December 2021, the Union Health Ministry said.
The health ministry announcement — that orders have been placed for 25 crore doses of Covishield and 19 crore doses of Covaxin to achieve universalization of vaccination — came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a fresh vaccine policy.
The new policy takes back the onus of vaccine purchase from the states. The finance ministry said today that the new programme will cost around Rs 50,000 crore and the Centre has the necessary funds.
Last week, the government said it has booked 30 crore doses of Hyderabad-based Biological-E’s Covid vaccine, which is undergoing clinical trial.
The procurement issue became a matter of huge controversy as the coronavirus ravaged the country in the second wave and exposed the massive shortcomings in the healthcare sector, especially in rural areas.
The Supreme Court strongly criticised the vaccine policy, calling it “prima facie arbitrary and irrational” and demanded a blueprint of the way ahead. The judges strongly hinted that a do-over was in order.
“Let me tell you from my experience as a Judge — the ability to say that you’re wrong is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength,” Justice Chandrachud had said.
The Centre has repeatedly blamed the states for the vaccine policy of May that went awry, saying the states wanted to buy the vaccines and under the federal structure, the government was in no position to refuse.
“Many states demanded vaccinations to be decentralized. Some voices even questioned prioritising certain age groups, including the elderly,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his address to the nation last evening.
Through the day today, the government and its officials provided repeated communications to the media — on and off the record — about the steps being taken to increase vaccine availability.