The Centre will be spending about Rs 10,000 crore to inoculate the priority group of 30 crore Indians in the first phase of the Covid-19 vaccination drive, sources in the Union finance ministry have told India Today TV.
Phase 1 of vast inoculation exercise will be funded by the central government. Some states have said the coronavirus vaccine will be given free of cost , more states are likely to make similar announcements soon.
Sources have also revealed that the government is unwilling to take the loans from international banks for funding the mammoth vaccination drive.
India already has support under the Covax global vaccine sharing plan, which is co-led by the World Health Organization and GAVI. The agreement aims to provide poor and middle-income countries with vaccines through a fund known as the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator, which was set up last April. GAVI is currently in talks with the Indian government over a support package for vaccination in the country.
Among the phase 1 priority group listed by the National Expert Group on Vaccines (NEGVAC) are 1 crore healthcare workers including, doctors, nurses and paramedical staff along with 2 crore frontline and essential workers and 27 crore elderly, mostly above the age of 50 years with comorbidities such as diabetes, heart or liver ailments, etc — the population that is more susceptible to a severe form of the coronavirus infection.
The three likely vaccines in the emergency use authorisation (EUA) from the DCGI are the doses developed by Pfizer, Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India (SII). However, the most likely candidate to be ready and checked for safety in the first phase of inoculation would be the Covishield vaccine developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca along with Serum Institute of India.
The SII has earlier said that it would stockpile 500 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine till March 2021. The vaccine is estimated to cost about Rs 250 per dose. India needs 600 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine to inoculate 30 crore people under the current plan.