From March 1, Indians above the age of 60 (an estimated 10 crore people) and those above 45 years of age with co-morbidity will get access to COVID-19 vaccine shots at more than 10,000 government health centres and more than 20,000 private hospitals and clinics, the government announced on February 24.
No charge would be levied for vaccine shots administered at the government centres, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said.
"While the vaccine will be provided free of cost at government centres, the Centre will come out with prescribed rates for vaccination at private hospitals," he clarified.
"Those who want to get vaccinated from private hospitals will have to pay. The amount they would need to pay will be decided by the health ministry within 3-4 days as they are in discussion with manufacturers and hospitals," the minister added.
All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Director Dr Randeep Guleria said the private hospitals would levy charges primarily to cover the overhead costs. The charges would be fixed by the government, similar to the caps that were imposed on testing rates, he said.
"Charges would be to just cover overheads which private sectors would need, some of which may include cost of syringes and human resource. Like it was done for testing where charges were fixed to ensure that those are not misused and private sector also doesn't suffer loss," news agency ANI quoted him as saying.
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The nationwide immunisation programme was rolled in India on January 16, with around three crore healthcare and other frontline workers being listed as eligible beneficiaries under the initial phase.
Till 6 pm on February 23, a total of 1.14 crore persons had been vaccinated, the Health Ministry said. The beneficiaries include 75,40,602 healthcare workers and 38,83,492 frontline workers.
The ministry said 64,25,060 health workers have taken the first dose of the vaccine and 11,15,542 have taken the second dose. Other frontline workers have so far been administered only with the first dose of the vaccine.
The government has so far approved two vaccines - Covishield, the Indian variant of Oxford-AstraZeneca doses manufactured by Pune's Serum Institute of India (SII) and Covaxin, the indigenous vaccine developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech - for emergency use.
The regulators are considering the proposal to grant emergency use authorisation to Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, which would be locally supplied by Dr Reddy's Laboratories. The vaccine candidate has shown 91 percent efficacy in the trials.