Reena Jani, 34, a health worker, receives the vaccine developed by Oxford/AstraZeneca at Mathalput Community Health Centre, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Koraput. (Image: Reuters)
The amount of Rs 35,000 crore allocated by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the union budget for the nationwide Covid-19 will be enough to vaccinate around 50 crore people, assuming a cost of Rs 700 per person, Expenditure Secretary T.V. Somanathan told Moneycontrol on February 2.
“From the Finance Ministry's point of view, there is an approximate knowledge of what the unit costs are. What I can say, if you take the cost of vaccinating one person, I would estimate it at roughly Rs 700 - assuming two doses per person and assuming incidentals such as syringes, transportation, cold storage,” Somanthan said.
“Which means the amount of money provided, if it was exclusively provided by the Budget, is sufficient to inoculate about 50 crore people. As the minister said, this is not necessarily the final figure. If required, there will be more provided. This does not necessarily mean the final figure,” he said.
Somanthan, however, added that the allocation was not made with this number in mind, but rather a calculation based on the budget-makers’ understanding of what the broad unit costs should be.
It should be remembered that Rs 35,000 crore allocation by the centre is only a part of what will go into the world’s largest vaccination drive. Public health is ultimately a state subject as per the Schedule Seven of the Constitution, and all state governments will also allocate sums in their budgets for 2021-22. It is a possibility that all combined, these allocations could exceed that of the centre.
Then there is the private sector. A number of corporate houses have requested that they be allowed to vaccinate their employees and families and that these initiatives should be counted under Corporate Social Responsibility. In January, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs gave the go-ahead for vaccination spending by companies to be counted under CSR.
However, companies have not yet been given the go-ahead to start the vaccination drive. That is expected to happen a few months down the line.
As per the nationwide vaccination plans by the centre and states, the priority is being given to 30 crore people – namely healthcare workers, frontline workers like police, sanitation and municipality staff, armed forces, paramilitary, and senior citizens who are most susceptible to the virus.
As per the data available with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, some 41.4 lakh people have been vaccinated as on the morning of February 3.
Officials say that vaccinating the priority group will take about 5-6 months, and by then various Covid-19 vaccines should be available over-the-counter. It is then that the central government will decide that out of the un-vaccinated population, who should be given the vaccination for free. Essentially the rural and urban poor.
Also Read: Budget 2021 | Rs 35,000 crore allotment for COVID-19 vaccination brings cheers to vaccine makers