INDIA has taken a decisive step in its battle against Covid-19 by liberalizing the vaccination campaign which has been progressing in spurts since its launch in mid-January. All citizens over the age of 18 will be eligible for the jab from May 1. Several opposition parties and state governments had called for the vaccination program to be opened for all adults due to the increasing workload, but the Center took its time before doing what was necessary. Starting next month, vaccine makers would be free to supply 50 percent of doses to states and on the open market. The move aims to ensure that there is no vaccine shortage in any part of the country. As tens of thousands of young people are expected to converge on vaccination centers soon, the central government and pharmaceutical companies will find themselves under increasing pressure to provide adequate vaccine stocks.
India has followed in America’s footsteps in deciding to make the vaccine available to all adults, but the two countries are at odds in terms of vaccination trajectories. In the United States, 40% of the population has received at least one vaccine, while 25% of people have been fully immunized. The corresponding figures for India are dismal 8 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.
The government has reportedly approved an advance payment of around Rs 4,500 crore to vaccine makers Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech for future supplies. This subsidy will help them both increase their production capacity in anticipation of the looming increase in demand. Along with accelerated tracking of emergency approvals for coronavirus injections produced abroad, the Center would like to remove 10% of customs duties levied on imported vaccines. Such measures may facilitate the availability of a variety of safe and affordable vaccines in India soon. With greater decentralization, the vaccination campaign should gain momentum if needed, provided that authorities are able to minimize vaccine wastage and prevent hoarding.