INDIA. Delhi: Prime minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation live on 7 June 2021 and made a significant change in its policy of ‘Liberalised Vaccine Policy,’ and announced that the Government of India will take over the 25 percent quota that was allotted to the state governments for the 18-44 age group vaccination program on 19 April 2021.
It should be noted here that Govt. of India in its initial policy on vaccinations in January 2021, was in charge of the entire vaccine process. But after demands for decentralisation from some state govt., particularly opposition-led states, made a few changes and allowed states to procure their share of 25% on their own from various vaccine manufacturing companies. The division in fact was in three parts: 50 percent for the Govt. of India; 25 percent for the state governments; and 25 percent for private hospitals. And the earlier vaccination program for free vaccines to everybody above the age of 45 years was to continue as it is.
This led to a chaotic situation all over the country and the vaccination program which was running smoothly went in for a toss. The opposition parties started making undue noise for free vaccines citing financial reasons.
Looking into all these factors, and also the fact that it was the people who were suffering because of all this, Govt. of India has once again decided to take over the program with minor changes. The final scheme is being finalised with the state govt. and will roll out from 21 June 2021.
Private hospitals might play the spoil sport
In January, Govt. of India was supplying vaccines free of cost to the states and at a very nominal price to private hospitals, so that those who wanted to pay can go and get vaccinated after paying a pre-fixed price. But after the partial current correction, private hospitals are given a share of 25 percent in the total vaccine production and at a pre-fixed cost, though this is going to be quite exorbitant.
This will create a divide in the society and also will be a cause for big crowds at free vaccine centers, as not many will be able to pay this high cost after the prolonged lockdowns and the high rising unemployment rate and other factors.
People are also seeing this as a reservation of vaccines for the rich, and they are now demanding a complete withdrawal of the ‘Liberalised Vaccine Policy’, and a 100 percent takeover of the vaccine procurement by the Govt. of India.
It is also been seen by a few fundamentalists as a policy against the Indian Constitution. The constitution of India provides the ‘Right to Health’ as a Constitutional right of every citizen and the right to free vaccines is mentioned as a sub-set of the Right to Life under Article 21. Hence, free vaccination is seen as a Fundamental Right of every Indian citizen.
Also, political activists are worried that richer hospitals will have an upper hand as they will be able to procure more vaccines than less privileged private hospitals. This in fact happened in the month of May 2021 when it was seen that 50 percent of the vaccines were purchased by just nine private corporate hospitals, who were also reported of charging very high prices from citizens coming in for vaccinations.