Amid doubts over the government’s capabilities to roll out a successful vaccination programme against COVID-19 when a vaccine is available, health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Sunday (October 4) said that the Centre plans to obtain 400-500 million doses by July 2021 to cover at least 25 crore people.
The government’s priority will be to ensure vaccines reach each and every citizen and that there is equitable distribution, he said, adding frontline health workers will be the “topmost priority”.
“The government is working round the clock to ensure there is a fair and equitable distribution of vaccines once they are ready,” he said in his weekly social media interaction session with the public called ‘Sunday Samvaad’. “Our government’s utmost priority is how to ensure vaccines for each and everybody in the country.”
He said an expert body is looking at all aspects of the vaccine. The health ministry, along with the state governments, is drawing up a list of citizen groups that will require vaccine administration on a priority basis.
“Our rough estimate and the target would be to receive and utilise 400 to 500 million doses covering approximately 20-25 crore people by July 2021,” he said. “All this is under various stages of finalisation.”
Vardhan said the procurement of the vaccine “is being done centrally and each consignment will be tracked real-time until delivery” to ensure it reaches those who need it the most.”
The government has not taken any decision on introducing Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in India, he said.
Dr Vardhan said the government had taken a loan of ₹15,000 crore from various agencies to fight COVID. It will not come anything come in the way of ensuring that vaccines are made available to everyone.
He was responding to a query on how the government planned to raise ₹80,000 crore for the vaccination programme. A few days ago, Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla had said the government will requires ₹80,000 crore for purchasing and distributing vaccines.
The Serum Institute has tied up with AstraZeneca to mass produce the vaccine the Pharma major is developing with Oxford University. The vaccine, Covishield, is in the Phase 2 and Phase 3 stages of human trial in the UK and India.