Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Insights into Editorial: India’s new Covid-19 vaccine policy

 

 

Context:

India will dramatically expand its vaccination coverage from May 1, including everyone aged 18 and older.

The fourth phase of the mass inoculation programme incorporates several changes in vaccine policy.

 

What are the changes in procurement?

In the first three phases, when healthcare workers, frontline workers, and those above the age of 45 were vaccinated, the Centre procured the entire quantity of vaccines from the manufacturers, Serum Institute of India (Covishield) and Bharat Biotech (Covaxin), and distributed it to states.

The states distributed the stock to government vaccination centres, which administered the vaccine free of cost, and to private hospitals that charged recipients Rs 250 per dose.

From May 1, the supply will be divided into two baskets: 50 per cent for the Centre, and 50 per cent for the open market.

Through the second non-Government of India channel, state governments, private hospitals, and industries that have facilities to administer the vaccine, will be able to procure doses directly from manufacturers.

 

How will the Centre decide which state gets how many doses?

The Centre will allocate its 50 per cent share to states based on the extent of infection (active cases) and performance (speed of administration).

Currently, states receive vaccine doses according to demand (number of registrations and walk-in vaccinations). Now, low wastage will be incentivised.

 

Second COVID-19 wave likely to peak in third week of May: SBI:

  1. India’s second COVID-19 wave may peak in the third week of May, according to a research report by the State Bank of India (SBI).
  2. The report adds that the recovery rate across nations continues to improve in several peaks, however, in India the recovery rate increased to 97.3 till mid-February 21 but began dipping subsequently, moving to 85 recently.
  3. The SBI report further states that Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh (UP) had peaked before the national peak during the first COVID-19 wave.
  4. Now new cases in Maharashtra seem to be stabilising but share of cases in total of various other States such as Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat has increased and these are showing an increase in daily new cases.
  5. So if other States also implement strict actions to control their spread, the national peak may come within two weeks after the Maharashtra peak.

 

Vaccinating everyone above 18 to cost just 0.36% of GDP: Ind-Ra:

  1. Vaccinating everyone above 18 in the phase III of the inoculation drive will cost only about 0.36 per cent of the GDP, ratings agency India Ratings and Research said.
  2. This is not a big amount as Rs 671.93 billion and works out to be just 0.36 per cent of GDP.
  3. If we split it between the Union government and state governments, then the fiscal impact on the union budget would be 0.12 per cent of GDP and on the state budgets would 0.24 per cent of GDP.
  4. Under this phase, all persons above 18 years of age will be eligible to get Covid-19 vaccine doses from May 1.
  5. Consequently, the total size of the population that will now be eligible for vaccination would be 841.95 million out of the total population of 1,332.69 million.
  6. The Union government has said that under this scheme, the pricing, procurement, eligibility and administration of coronavirus vaccines will be made flexible.
  7. Vaccinations by large corporate groups will reduce pressure on state/central budget.
  8. Since the antibodies generated by these vaccines are likely to last for 12-18 months, this expenditure would be a recurring expenditure on Union and state budgets.
  9. However, many states such as Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh have already announced that the government will bear the cost of vaccination.

 

Which other countries in the world have allowed open-market sale of vaccines?

  1. None so far. The main reason is that the vaccines that are being used around the world have received only Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) and none of them have presented enough evidence yet on their safety and effectiveness to receive full regulatory authorisation.
  2. Sputnik V is expected to begin arriving in the country by the end of May. Dr Reddy’s Laboratories has an agreement to distribute 250 million doses of the Russian vaccine, but it is unclear how many of these doses may become available to India.
  3. The company is still in discussions with the government over the price and number of doses required.
  4. Pfizer has said that it plans to only supply to the government, but it is not known when an agreement may be reached, and how many doses it can provide.

 

Conclusion:

India must vaccinate its population with the single-minded focus to achieve herd immunity and avoid any further waves as other countries are facing.

According to Ind-Ra, the maximum impact is likely to be on Bihar followed by Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Manipur, Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha.

The decision to allow the restricted emergency use of Russian vaccine Sputnik-V and other vaccines approved by the US, EU and WHO is another step in the right direction. This will only accelerate the vaccination effort in the country.

If 2020 has taught us anything, we cannot prevent a second wave unless we significantly reduce the frequency of contact, increase testing and tracing, and ensure that suspects and those infected are properly quarantined or isolated.

These are essential measures to break the chain of transmission and save lives, especially when it is crystal clear that the fast-spreading variants of the coronavirus is responsible for the recent spike in new cases.