Vaccine inequity will make containment measures more difficult
While the Union government has already allocated ₹35,000 crore for COVID-19 vaccination in this Budget and also committed to provide further funds if required, it will spend less than ₹10,000 crore to vaccinate for free all above 45 years. While the sudden change in policy is therefore not due to lack of financial resources, the State governments, which have not factored in funds for vaccination, will now be required to garner funds for the same. There is hence a great compulsion to make pricing more transparent and allow States to collectively bargain for a lower price and assured timelines to receive supplies. The current policy, which has earmarked 50% supplies to State governments and private hospitals, takes the States and the companies to a completely uncharted territory leading to competition among States, and between State governments and private hospitals. Vaccine shortage from both manufacturers is likely to last a few months. The combination of policy pandemonium, profiteering by vaccine manufacturers in the thick of the pandemic and vaccine shortage is unlikely to result in a smooth roll-out of vaccines for the target group. This could lead to a dangerous situation where containment and mitigation measures become even more difficult.
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