The Centre on Tuesday said it has placed orders for 44 crore doses of Covishield and Covaxin, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Centre would take over the state procurement quota and provide free jabs to state governments for inoculation of all above the age of 18.
These 44 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines will be delivered by their makers between August and December 2021, the Union Health Ministry said.
"In immediate follow-up of the prime minister's announcement of these changes in the Guidelines of National Covid Vaccination programme yesterday, the Centre has placed an order with Serum Institute of India for 25 crore doses of Covishield and with Bharat Biotech for 19 crore doses of Covaxin.
"Additionally, 30 per cent of the advance for procurement of both the Covid-19 vaccines has been released to Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech," an official said.
The official said the Centre has been supporting the efforts of states and union territories for an effective vaccination drive under the "whole of government approach" since January 16 this year.
Based on various representations received by the Centre, the vaccination for all adults above 18 years of age was opened in Phase III of the vaccination strategy beginning May 1.
"Now with the aim to further universalise the countrywide vaccination drive, all citizens above 18 years of age can receive the Covid-19 vaccine doses free of cost at government health facilities," the official said.
The central government will provide free coronavirus vaccines to states and union territories for inoculation of all above 18 years of age from June 21, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday, announcing that the Centre will take over the 25 per cent state procurement quota.
Asserting that vaccine supply would be increased significantly in the coming days, the prime minister said the Centre has now decided to buy 75 per cent of jabs from vaccine makers for free supply to states, while private sector hospitals will continue to procure the remaining 25 per cent.
Considerable chaos had broken out in recent weeks after the Centre handed over the task of procuring and delivering vaccines to the different state governments. The states floated global tenders but discovered that foreign manufacturers, which are snowed under with demands for vaccines, refused to deal with anyone except the Central government.
The new vaccination scheme will come into effect two weeks from now on June 21.
The government’s about turn came in the wake of being asked by the Supreme Court for a "vaccine roadmap". The bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud had asked the government to undertake a "fresh review of its vaccination policy addressing the concerns raised.” It pointed out that asking people between the age of 18-44 to pay for the vaccine was "prima facie arbitrary and irrational".