In a significant step, the Indian government on Monday announced that all persons above 18 years of age will be eligible to get COVID-19 vaccine doses from May 1, 2021.
According to the press releases issued by the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, the decision was taken after the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi cleared the ‘liberalised and accelerated Phase 3 strategy of Covid-19 vaccination from May 1’.
The Centre stated that the pricing, procurement, eligibility and administration of coronavirus vaccines being will be made flexible in Phase 3 of the world’s largest vaccination drive.
The government in its order stated that states ad Union Territories have been empowered to procure additional coronavirus vaccine doses directly from the manufacturers, as well as open up vaccination to any category of people above the age of 18 for the same.
The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) had given the emergency use authorisation for two COVID-19 vaccines – Covishield of Oxford-AstraZeneca being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin in January 2021. In April, besides giving permission to restricted emergency use of the Sputnik V vaccine, India agreed to fast-track all foreign vaccines that have already been authorized by one of four foreign drug regulators in the US, UK, European Union and Japan or the World Health Organization (WHO).
Highlights of the COVID-19 vaccine Phase 3 to start from May 1:
(i) Vaccine manufacturers would supply 50% of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) released doses to Govt. of India and would be free to supply the remaining 50% doses to State Govts. and in the open market (hereinafter referred to as other than Govt. of India channel).
(ii) Manufacturers would transparently make an advance declaration of the price for 50% supply that would be available to State Govts. and in open market, before 1st May 2021. Based on this price, State governments, private hospitals, industrial establishments etc would be able to procure vaccine doses from the manufacturers. Private Hospitals would have to procure their supplies of Covid-19 vaccine exclusively from the 50% supply earmarked for other than Govt. of India channel. Private Vaccination providers shall transparently declare their self-set vaccination price. The eligibility through this channel would be opened up to all adults, i.e. everyone above the age of 18.
(iii) Vaccination shall continue as before in Govt. of India vaccination centres, provided free of cost to the eligible population as defined earlier i.e. Health Care Workers (HCWs), Front Line Workers (FLWs) and all people above 45 years of age.
(iv) All vaccination (through Govt. of India and Other than Govt. of India channel) would be part of the National Vaccination Programme and mandated to follow all protocol such as being captured on CoWIN platform, linked to AEFI reporting and all other prescribed norms. Stocks and price per vaccination applicable in all vaccination centres will also have to be reported in real-time.
(v) The division of vaccine supply 50% to Govt. of India and 50% to other than Govt. of India channel would be applicable uniformly across for all vaccines manufactured in the country. However, the Government of India will allow the imported fully ready to use vaccines to be entirely utilized in the other than Govt. of India channel.
(vi) Govt. of India, from its share, will allocate vaccines to States/UTs based on the criteria of extent of infection (number of active Covid cases) & performance (speed of administration). Wastage of vaccine will also be considered in this criteria and will affect the criteria negatively. Based on the above criteria, State-wise quota would be decided and communicated to the States adequately in advance.
(vii) The Second dose of all existing priority groups i.e., HCWs, FLWs and population above 45 years, wherever it has become due, would be given priority, for which a specific and focused strategy would be communicated to all stakeholders.
(viii) This policy would come into effect from 1st May 2021 and will be reviewed from time to time.