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Centre to Bear Entire Cost of Vaccinating Frontline Workers: PM, Government Place Orders to SII for Supply

Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Jan 11: As the prime minister Narendra Modi announced that the centre would bear the entire expenses for the first phase of Coronavirus vaccination to three crore odd frontline workers, the government placed an order for the supply of 11 million doses of “Covishield” vaccine to the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) on Monday.

The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) had earlier this month given restricted emergency use approval for “Covishield” developed by Oxford University-AstraZeneca and being manufactured under license by the SII, “Covaxin” being developed indigenously by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune.

The SII also confirmed that it had received the order from the government and said the cost of vaccines to the government would be Rs 200 per vaccine dose for the first 100 million doses. The SII had earlier stated that nearly 50 million doses of vaccines were ready with it and could start shipment to different destinations within a day after receiving official orders. India’s mass immunization drive is scheduled to begin from January 16.

Modi, who held a virtual meeting with the chief ministers of all the states and union territories, reviewed the preparedness of the mass vaccination programme across the country and told the states that they would not have to bear any expenses for the vaccination of the frontline workers which would be entirely borne by the centre.

“In the first phase of the drive, health workers, both from government and private institutions, will be vaccinated along with sanitation workers, other frontline workers, defence forces, police and other paramilitary forces,” Modi said. “In the second phase, those above 50 years and those under 50 years but with co-morbid conditions will be vaccinated. Priority will be given to about 3 crore frontline workers, followed by around 27 crore people above the age of 50 and others with co-morbidities,” he added.

The Prime Minister said coordination between Centre and states in fighting the disease was a great example of federalism. “I’m satisfied that we worked together by standing united in the Covid crisis, quick decisions were taken with full sensitivity. As a result, Covid-19 has not spread in India on the scale, on which it spread anywhere else in the world,” he said.

He also said besides two already approved made-in-India vaccines, four more were in the pipeline to be rolled out in the country. He said the two already approved vaccines were more cost-effective than any other in the world and had been developed as per the country’s needs.

He also clarified that the public representatives were not part of the three-crore corona warriors and frontline workers to be vaccinated first.

The country has already conducted two dry runs to understand the best way to administer vaccine shots and plug loopholes in logistics and training.

Meanwhile, the number of people who have tested positive for the new UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 in India has climbed to 96, the health ministry said on Monday. Till Saturday, the number of such people was 90. “The total number of persons found infected with the mutant UK strain of COVID-19 is 96,” the ministry said.

India on Monday recorded the lowest single-day case spike since June 23 after it reported 16,311 new Covid cases in the last 24 hours. The virus testing on Sunday at 6.59 lakh was also the lowest since the third week of August. Active cases further dropped to 2.2 lakh. A total of 161 deaths were reported on Sunday, this is the first time since the end of May that the country reported less than 200 fatalities.