The centre said the policy facilitates better access and reduces the operational stress on Government Vaccination facilities.
The centre on Saturday defended its liberalised vaccine policy and said the media reports suggesting inequities in distribution of doses were “inaccurate and speculative in nature”. It said the vaccine policy that came into effect from May 1 reduces the “operational stress” on state-run vaccination facilities.
“It is reiterated that the Liberalised Vaccine policy, which envisages a larger role for the private sector and the centre, is setting aside 25% of vaccines for the private sector. This mechanism facilitates better access and reduces the operational stress on Government Vaccination facilities in terms of those who could afford to pay and would prefer to go to a private hospital,” it said in a statement.
Union Health Minister Harsh Varshan also tweeted that the reports of inequities in distribution were “baseless”.
Reports of inequities in distribution of #COVID19vaccines are completely baseless.
— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) June 5, 2021
Under the liberalised policy, the centre is getting 50 per cent of the vaccines supplied, while the private sector and states are buying the remaining jabs directly from the two manufacturers – Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute.
The government had also opened vaccinations to all eligible adults. However, after May 1, the vaccination drive that began at express pace in January this year has slowed down due to a severe shortage of doses. Many states have shut down facilities meant for the vaccination of the 18-44 group.
Responding to criticism that some big players are cornering the bulk of the supply meant for the private sector, the government said hospitals in smaller cities are also getting the two vaccines.
“As on 1st June 2021, private hospitals have received over 1.20 crore doses of COVID vaccines in the month of May 2021. As on 4th May, 2021, a large number of private hospitals that have contracted with M/S Serum Institute of India and M/S Bharat Biotech have been supplied with Covishield and Covaxin doses. These private hospitals are not limited to the bigger metros but also from Tier II & III cities across States,” it said.
Many state governments had slammed the new policy under which the centre gets the vaccines at cheaper rates.
With the vaccine supply dwindling and the foreign manufacturers refusing to strike deals, many states have demanded that the centre provide doses for free.
The Supreme Court earlier this week called the centre’s policy of free vaccines for those aged 45 and above, and paid doses for the 18-44 group “arbitrary and irrational”.
Flagging several other flaws — including shortage of vaccine doses and problems faced by rural people in accessing vaccines — the court asked the centre to review its vaccination policy and “place on record a roadmap of projected availability of vaccines till 31 December 2021”.