India marked a major milestone on Monday as health authorities administered more than 80 lakh vaccine doses on a day when the Centre’s new Covid inoculation guidelines came into effect.
The previous record for highest number of vaccinations on a single day was reported on April 1 when 48 lakh doses were administered.
According to the Union health ministry as of today, India’s cumulative Covid-19 vaccination coverage stands at 28.33 crore.
Responding to the news, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Today’s record-breaking vaccination numbers are gladdening. The vaccine remains our strongest weapon to fight COVID-19. Congratulations to those who got vaccinated and kudos to all the front-line warriors working hard to ensure so many citizens got the vaccine.”
This development comes in the backdrop of the Union government’s revised vaccination guidelines coming into force from today. According to the new guidelines, vaccine doses provided free of cost by the Centre will be allocated to states and UTs based on criteria such as population, disease burden and the progress of vaccination, and all above the age of 18 will be eligible for the free jabs.
While the Centre will now procure 75 per cent of the vaccines being produced by the manufacturers in the country, private hospitals will be permitted to procure the rest 25 per cent.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Modi said that central government is beginning the 'Free Vaccination For All campaign' for every Indian from today.
"The biggest beneficiary of this phase of India's vaccination drive shall be the poor, the middle class and the youth of the country. All of us should pledge to get ourselves vaccinated. Together we will defeat COVID-19," he said.
Within the 18 plus population group, states and UTs may decide their own prioritisation factoring in the vaccine supply schedule, the revised guidelines issued by the health ministry stated.
The states and UTs would aggregate the demand of private hospitals keeping in view equitable distribution between large and small private hospitals and regional balance, they said.
"Based on this aggregated demand, the Government of India will facilitate the supply of these vaccines to the private hospitals and their payment through the National Health Authority's electronic platform. This would enable the smaller and remoter private hospitals to obtain a timely supply of vaccines, and further equitable access and regional balance," the ministry said.
The price of vaccine doses for private hospitals would be declared by each vaccine manufacturer, and any subsequent changes would be notified in advance.
The private hospitals may charge up to a maximum of Rs150 per dose as service charges. State Governments may monitor the price being so charged, the guidelines said.
All citizens irrespective of their income status are entitled to free vaccination. Those who have the ability to pay are encouraged to use private hospital's vaccination centres, the guidelines said.
"To promote the spirit of 'Lok Kalyan' (public good), use of non-transferable Electronic Vouchers, which can be redeemed at private vaccination centers, will be encouraged.
"This would enable people to financially support vaccination of Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) at private vaccination centres," the revised guidelines said.
The COVID vaccination in the country commenced with the vaccination for all healthcare workers from January 16.
The programme was expanded with time to include vaccination of frontline workers, citizens more than 60 years of age, citizens more than 45 years of age and eventually citizens more than 18 years of age.
Under the National COVID Vaccination Program, from January 16 to April 30, 100 percent of vaccine doses were procured by the Government of India and provided free of cost to state governments.
State Governments were, in turn, asked to administer vaccination free of cost to defined priority groups.
To increase the pace of vaccination, participation of private hospitals was also enlisted where individuals could also choose to get vaccinated at a prescribed rate, the ministry said.
In response to the suggestions of many state governments to be permitted the flexibility to procure vaccine directly and administer them as per their own prioritisation based on local requirements.
From May 1, the Centre was procuring 50 percent of the vaccine produced and was continuing to provide them to states free of cost for administering to priority groups.
The state government and private hospitals were now also empowered to directly procure from the remaining 50 percent vaccine pool.
"Many states have, however, had communicated that they are facing difficulties in managing the funding, procurement and logistics of vaccines, impacting the pace of the National COVID Vaccination Program.
"Also, it was noted that smaller and remoter private hospitals were also facing constraints. Keeping in view these aspects and the repeated requests received from states, the Guidelines for National COVID Vaccination Program were reviewed and revised and new guidelines were issued on June 8," the ministry said.
(With PTI inputs)