India makes COVID-19 vaccine free for everyone above the of 18 from June 21

India makes COVID-19 vaccine free for everyone above the of 18 from June 21
Indian Prime Minister Narendra ModiBCCL
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on June 7 at a time when the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be on the wane.

Some states including the industrial ones like Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu, are preparing to lift the lockdown in a phased manner, as the daily caseload dropped to its lowest in over 2 months.
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Expectations range from another round of stimulus announcement to a fresh turn in the country’s vaccine procurement policy to even a call for his resignation, fuelled by his detractors, trending on Twitter.

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These are the highlights of his speech:
  • “The second wave in April and May, the demand for medical oxygen had grown at an unimaginable rate. India had never felt the need for so much oxygen ever before. The government did everything it could to increase the production of medical oxygen in India by ten-fold in a very short time.”
  • The fight against the invisible and the ever-changing enemy like COVID-19 is possible only with protocols like masks, social distancing and others.
  • Can you imagine, if India did not have companies that produced vaccines? 50-60 years ago, India would take decades in sourcing vaccines for polio, smallpox and hepatitis B… The vaccination coverage in 2014 was less than 60%. The pace at which it was moving, it would have taken another 40 years to complete 100% vaccination. The government decided to launch ‘Mission Indradhanush’ to ensure faster vaccination on war footing. In the last 5-6 years, the coverage has gone up to 90%.
  • COVID-19 cornered us just when we were moving towards 100% vaccine coverage. However, when the intent is honest and policies are clear, India was able to launch two ‘made in India’ vaccines. The scientists have shown that India will not fall behind the more developed countries. 230 million vaccine doses have already been administered.
  • Vaccine supply is going to increase further. There are 7 companies in India producing different kinds of vaccines. There are three other vaccines in different stages of trials. The process to buy vaccines from other countries has been hastened.
  • Some experts have expressed concern over the risk to the children. Research is underway on that front too. There is work underway on nasal vaccines too. If it is successful, it will further boost our vaccination efforts.
  • India’s vaccination programme between Jan 16 and April 30 has been guided by the central government. There were a lot of questions raised, a lot of pressures were put, and a section of the media ran it like a campaign. We thought, if the states want to have autonomy, why not hand it over? So we decided to share 25% of the responsibility with the states from May 1. They tried too. However, a work of this scale comes with many challenges. Within two weeks, some states started saying that the older model was better. More states joined the call to hand the responsibility back to the Centre. It was good that states returned with a demand for a review within good time.
  • Today, it has been decided that states’ responsibility in vaccination will be taken back by the government. This will take place over the next two weeks. A new set of guidelines will be released after building a consensus with the states.
  • From June 21, India will give vaccines, free of cost, to everyone above the age of 18. The centre will bear the cost.
(Developing story)

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