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COVID-19: India to spend Rs. 14,000 cr on 1st phase of vaccination

Virendra Pandit 

NEW DELHI: India will spend nearly $1.8 billion (Rs. 14,000 crores) for the vaccination of 60 crore people in the next six to eight months as high-security transportation of vaccines to different locations commenced on Tuesday for the rollout of the world’s largest-ever vaccination drive on January 16.

Interacting with the state Chief Ministers on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the Centre will foot the bill for the first phase of vaccination in which three crore healthcare and frontline warriors will get the shot on a priority basis. While India plans to vaccinate 30 crore people in the next few months, only 2.5 crores have been vaccinated so far in 50 countries, he said.

The first phase of shots is expected to cost around Rs.1,200 crore.

In the second phase, 27 crore high-risk people, mainly senior citizens, will be inoculated in the next six to eight months.

On Monday, the government had placed firm orders in advanced commitments for the supply of over 6 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) and Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Ltd (BBIL) for the first phase of vaccination.

Under the agreement, BBIL will supply 55 lakh doses of Covaxin, costing Rs 162 crore, while SII will provide 1.1 crore doses of Covishield, each costing Rs 210, including the GST. The government will buy another 4.5 crore shots by April, together amounting to over Rs 1,200 crore, media reported.

The government has committed to purchase another 450 lakh doses from SII alone.

Besides the two vaccines approved for emergency use—Covishield, developed by Oxford University and British-Swedish company AstraZeneca, manufactured in India under license by SII, and BBIL’s indigenous Covaxin– four others are also in the pipeline. More vaccines may also become available at competitive prices when the exercise moves into the second phase.

The PM assured that scientists have taken all precautions to provide citizens with effective vaccines and the scientific community will have the final word on the vaccination drive.

India has the world’s second-highest caseload of coronavirus infections after the United States. More than 1.51 lakh people died and 1.04 crore were infected so far in the country, compared to 3.85 lakh deaths and 2.31 crore infections in the USA.

The governments, both at the Centre and in the states, are preparing to vaccinate more than 60 crore people this year.