The government—the states and the Centre together—needs to address concerns on the cost front, by assuring free shots while exhorting people who can afford to pay for it to voluntarily do so.
One of the key challenges of the fight against Covid-19 is the cost-barrier to access. India’s vaccine roll-out will be targeted at healthcare and other frontline workers, people aged above 50 and those with co-morbidities—this population makes for 20% of the country’s total. It is not clear yet whether the vaccine will be available for free to even the target groups, let alone the overall population. This is where the government really needs to pay heed to a survey, undertaken by media platform Gaon Connection, finding that, of 6,040 households in 60 districts in 16 states and one Union Territory, less than half were willing to pay for the vaccine.
Given experts believe that at least 60-70% of the population needs to be covered by the vaccine in order to meaningfully counter the pandemic, the Gaon Connection findings should trigger concern. If such overwhelming numbers would rather abstain than pay, getting to 60-70% coverage is going to be challenging.
The government—the states and the Centre together—needs to address concerns on the cost front, by assuring free shots while exhorting people who can afford to pay for it to voluntarily do so. This kind of nudging has proved successful, in the GiveItUp campaign for LPG subsidies. If the government negotiates with vaccine-makers for a lower bill in return for grant of legal indemnity—this is something the EU has done—it can lower the cost of offering the vaccine for free.