Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday announced that the state governments will no longer have to spend on Covid-19 vaccines and the Centre will now provide doses for the 18 to 44 age group.

“The Centre will procure 75% of the jabs manufactured by vaccine makers and provide them to states free of cost,” Modi said while addressing the nation. “From June 21, Centre will provide free vaccines for all citizens above the age of 18.”

However, private hospitals will continue to buy 25% of the total vaccine stock. This means some beneficiaries will have to pay for their vaccines if they choose to get inoculated at non-government medical facilities.

Under India’s third phase of the immunisation programme, the Centre had announced that vaccine manufacturers will supply 50% of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory-released doses to the Union government and the remaining 50% doses to state governments and in the open market.

However, according to an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court in May, the rest of the 50% share of India’s vaccines, were split between the states and private players. “...from out of the 50% allotted to the State, 50% will go to the state...” the Centre said in the affidavit. “and the balance 50% will go to the private sector based upon the contracts between private sector and vaccine manufacturers.”

This system was implemented from May 1, when the central government opened vaccinations for all adults.

But the Centre faced criticism on its vaccination policy from the Supreme Court and Opposition leaders for the differential pricing of shots and shortages of vaccines.

The Centre’s decision on Monday is in line with the demands made by multiple chief ministers to provide vaccines for free to states.

Service charge on vaccines at private hospitals

On Monday, the Centre said that 25% of the jabs will now be bought by private hospitals, but states will oversee that the service fee that the facilities will charge.

“State governments will monitor that only 150 rupees service charge is levied by the private hospitals over the decided price of the vaccines,” a government press release said.

Modi also defended India’s vaccination policy so far and claimed that states had asked for “de-centralisation” of the vaccine policy. The prime minister said that within weeks of the new policy’s implementation, states began their call for the previous centralised system.

Boost in vaccine production in India

The prime minister also noted on Monday that over 23 crore vaccine doses had been administered so far.

“Seven companies are currently producing different types of vaccines in the country and three more are in the trial process,” Modi said. He, however, added that the number of vaccine makers in the world were too few to meet the global demand.

The prime minister also traced India’s experience with the coronavirus pandemic, especially the second wave.

“During the second wave in the months of April and May, the demand for medical oxygen had gone up exponentially. Various measures were implemented to meet the rising demands...even the security personnel were mobilised to fill the gaps.”

Further, he announced that the Centre will continue to provide free ration to 80 crore beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Anna Yojana, till Diwali this year.

India on Monday registered 1,00,636 Covid-19 new cases, pushing the infection tally in the country to 2,89,09,975 since the pandemic broke out in January last year. This is the lowest number of new cases in 61 days, reports said. With 2,427 deaths, the toll climbed to 3,49,186.

So far, more than 23.18 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in the country, while over 4.51 crore beneficiaries have received both the doses, according to government data. The Centre has claimed that all adults will be vaccinated by the end of this year.