Covid-19 vaccine in India: Who will bear the cost — the government or people?

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Updated: December 05, 2020 4:21 PM

At the all-party meeting on Covid-19 yesterday, PM Narendra Modi said the Centre was in talks with the state governments regarding this (vaccine price) and public health priority will decide the price of the vaccine.

Many from the opposition parties are demanding that the Covid-19 vaccine should be distributed free.

The race for a Covid-19 vaccine has entered the last lap. Even countries like the UK and then Russia have formally approved Covid-19 vaccine for their countries; the UK has given its nod to the vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech while Russia has approved Sputnik V vaccine for next week roll-out. What about India— the second most affected pandemic-hit nation after the US? When will India get a vaccine for Coronavirus? When will vaccination begin? Who will get it first? Will it be provided for free? —these are a few questions on everyone’s mind now.

During the recently concluded Bihar assembly election, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in its manifesto, had promised free Covid-19 vaccine once it is available. After that states like Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puduchchery had also announced to provide Covid-19 vaccine, once cleared, at free of cost.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has demanded free Covid vaccine for all the people in the country. The very next day, Union Minister Pratap Sarangi, at a rally in Odisha, said all Indians will be given Covid-19 vaccine at free of cost as opposition parties questioned BJP’s free Covid vaccine promise to Bihar alone. But so far, there was no clarity if Covid-19 vaccine in India will be provided for free.

Regarding the pricing of the vaccine, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at yesterday all-party meeting on Covid-19, said,” Our scientists are very confident of succeeding in their endeavour of making Covid vaccine. The world is keeping a watch on the cheapest & safe vaccine. That is why the world is watching India.”

In the all-party meeting, NCP chief Sharad Pawar had demand vaccine to be proved for free. Former Prime Minister and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) supremo H.D. Deve Gowda also advocated for ‘free vaccine’.

With many from the opposition parties demanding that the vaccine should be distributed free and some proposing vaccine should be priced nominally, PM Modi, at the meeting, said, Centre was in talks with the state governments regarding this and public health priority will decide the price of the vaccine.

As there is still no clarity on the pricing of the vaccine, Maharashtra Minister & NCP leader Nawab Malik on Saturday raised question over the Modi-government and demanded free vaccine for all. “PM held all-party meeting & now they’re saying State & Centre will decide the price, how can it be? In Bihar, they gave an assurance that vaccination will be free. We demand vaccine should be given to each Indian free of cost,” he said.

In India, there are five potential Covid-19 candidates, including three indigenous one, are currently in the advanced stages of development. Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week visited the Zydus Biotech Park in Ahmedabad, Bharat Biotech’s plant in Hyderabad and Serum Institute of India in Pune to check the progress of Covid-19 vaccine development at these centres. He was quite happy with the development of the vaccine work.

Even as Covid vaccine is likely to be ready in the next few weeks, as informed by Prime Minister Modi himself, the decision over the pricing of the vaccine can create a major uproar in the country with many demanding it ‘free vaccine’. Who will bear the cost— the government or people? The question remains!

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