Adults below 45 years of age who are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine from May 1 may have to wait for several weeks to get a free jab as promised by the state governments.
Around 20 states have said that they will offer COVID-19 vaccines free for 18-45 years. But many are yet to initiate negotiations and others have just begun sending feelers to vaccine companies.
Some are waiting for other states to enter into contracts to get a reference price. A few have announced in advance that vaccines might not be available until mid-May or June.
The Maharashtra government said that vaccination of 18-44 won't happen from May 1.
Serum Institute of India on April 28 announced that it was reducing the price of its Covishield vaccine for state governments from Rs 400 to Rs 300 per dose as a "philanthropic gesture". For private hospitals, Covishield will be at Rs 600/dose. Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin is priced at Rs 600 for states and Rs 1200 for private hospitals.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
The Maharashtra government is estimating the cost of inoculating its 18-45 year age people to be around Rs 6,500 crore.
“Micro planning is in process. The centres for 18-44 will be different. They will be dedicated for the particular age group," Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said.
The Andhra Pradesh government has announced that vaccination drive in the state for those between 18-45 years might be delayed, due to insufficient stock of vaccines.
The registration for 18-45 years on the COWIN platform began on April 28 to receive COVID-19 vaccines from May 1.
The states said they will continue to vaccinate healthcare, frontline workers and people above 45 years.
While the state government has initiated talks, it is yet to make any agreement on supply of vaccines in Andhra Pradesh.
With a two crore young population, Andhra Pradesh may need at least Rs 1,200 crore to vaccinate 18-45 age group people with two doses of Covishield vaccine. A challenging ask for a state government that's reeling under economic distress.
Andhra Pradesh's neighbouring state Telangana is yet to initiate full-fledged talks with vaccine companies, as it is waiting for its Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao, who is tested positive for COVID-19 to come out of isolation.
An official of the state government who didn't want to be named told Moneycontrol that the 18-45 years age group may have to wait till June first week to get vaccines.
"The government is committed to giving free vaccines to all eligible people, we need to plan, negotiate the price, find the financial resources and companies should also be in a position to supply us, at least in the next few weeks the rollout would be unlikely," the official cited above said.
Questions sent to Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India regarding the supply situation remain unanswered at the time of publishing the copy.
Private to open first
Meanwhile, the 18-44 years age group registering for COVID-19 vaccines will get their COVID-19 vaccines at the private vaccination centre from May 1. But in private hospitals, the COVID-19 vaccine would cost anywhere between Rs 1000 and Rs 1,500 per dose.
India has approved three COVID-19 vaccines. These are SII's Covishield, Bharat Biotech's Covaxin and Sputnik V. The Central government is now allowing the import of vaccines developed by foreign companies without requiring local bridge clinical trial.