Vaccine manufacturers are empowered to release up to 50 percent of their supply to state governments and in the open market at a pre-declared price, the Centre said.
The vaccination drive will be opened up for all citizens above the age of 18 from May 1, the Government of India announced on April 19. The immunisation drive was currently restricted to only citizens aged above 45.
"Everyone above the age of 18 to be eligible to get vaccine against COVID-19," said a statement issued by the government. "Vaccine manufacturers incentivised to further scale up their production, as well as attract new national and international players," it added.
"Vaccine manufacturers empowered to release up to 50 percent of their supply to state governments and in the open market at a pre-declared price," the Centre further stated.
Manufacturers would transparently make an advance declaration of the price for 50 percent supply that would be available to state governments and in open market, before May 1, 2021.
"Based on this price, state governments, private hospitals, industrial establishments etc would be able to procure vaccine doses from the manufacturers," the Centre said.
"Private hospitals would have to procure their supplies of COVID-19 vaccine exclusively from the 50 percent supply earmarked for other than Government of India channel," it further added.
Private vaccination providers shall transparently declare their self-set vaccination price. The eligibility through this channel would be opened up to all adults, i.e. everyone above the age of 18, the statement further noted.
"Pricing, procurement, eligibility and administration of vaccines being made flexible in phase 3 of the world’s largest vaccination drive", the central government said, adding that "all stakeholders given flexibility to customise to local needs."
States would be empowered to procure additional vaccine doses directly from the manufacturers, as well as open up vaccination to any category of people above the age of 18 for the same, the statement further said.
"The division of vaccine supply 50 percent to Government of India and 50 percent to other than Government of India channel would be applicable uniformly across for all vaccines manufactured in the country," the Centre clarified.
However, the Government of India will allow the imported fully ready to use vaccines to be entirely utilized in the "other than Government of India channel", it added.
"Government of India, from its share, will allocate vaccines to States/UTs based on the criteria of extent of infection (number of active Covid cases) and performance (speed of administration). Wastage of vaccine will also be considered in this criteria and will affect the criteria negatively," the Centre said.
"Vaccination shall continue as before in Government of India vaccination centres, provided free of cost to the eligible population as defined earlier i.e. Health Care Workers (HCWs), Front Line Workers (FLWs) and all people above 45 years of age," the Centre clarified.
All vaccination - through both government and private channels - would bepart of the National Vaccination Programme, and mandated to follow all protocol such as being captured on CoWIN platform, linked to AEFI reporting and all other prescribed norms.
The revision in the vaccination policy comes amid a massive surge in COVID-19 infections in all parts of India. Hit by the second wave of pandemic, the country has been reporting over 2 lakh cases over the past few days, with a total of 2,73,810 fresh infections being reported in the last update issued by the Union Health Ministry on April 19. The tally of active cases has soared past 17 lakh-mark.
Experts have lauded the central government for widening the scope of vaccination. The move is considered as a major step towards achieving herd immunity.
"This is a welcome move. Current rate of 45 lakh doses per day would take one year to reach herd immunity," said Sangeeta Reddy, Joint Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals.
"I am delighted. The notification also talks about freeing up vaccine procurement and free price. The Govt is also importing vaccines. We had a very positive meeting with the PM today. A number of suggestions were made, including the need to stockpile vaccines and medicines," Biocon Limited chief Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw told Moneycontrol.
Opposition leaders also welcomed the move. "I’m glad and grateful that the GoI has accepted what @CMOMaharashtra Uddhav Thackeray ji and many other CMs, MPs and States had requested the GoI to consider- lowering the age and covering the younger population in the vaccination drive," Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Aaditya Thackeray said.