State governments are drawing up plans to procure vaccines for people in the 18-45 age group and have started price negotiations with manufacturers.
While Uttar Pradesh has sought 10 million doses (five million each from Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech), Maharashtra is looking to procure 15 million and is floating a global tender for this. Vaccine makers, however, say states are seeking to procure the products at Rs 150 per dose after the Centre said it would continue to get them at that price.
However, Maharashtra is yet to firm up its views on free doses. While Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope had earlier ruled out free vaccination for all, Minority Affairs Minister Nawab Malik indicated on Sunday the government would give free doses to residents in Maharashtra.
Stateswould have to fund procurement from their own budgets and bridge funding from the Centre is unlikely. “As of now we estimate that the state will have to spend around Rs 5,000 crore on procuring vaccines. We will negotiate prices with vaccine manufacturers and try to get them at a lower price than the one declared by them,” said a Maharashtra government official.
States have, nonetheless, started indicating their immediate requirements to vaccine makers. Most states have formed high-level committees comprising ministers and bureaucrats who will decide on the number of beneficiaries, expenditure on free vaccination drive, pricing strategy, etc.
West Bengal health department officials said the mode of procurement for the 18-44 age group was under discussion. “Discussions are being held at every level,” one of them said.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has said it would continue to buy the two vaccines – Covishield and Covaxin – at Rs 150 per dose. The Centre will supply the doses it supplies states for free. The Centre will continue to pick up the tab for those above 45 years if they visit a government hospital or vaccination centre for the jab. States have to procure for those above 18 and citizens also have the option to pay for a shot in a private hospital.
Both companies have announced the prices at which private hospitals can buy the vaccines — Rs 600 (Covishield) and Rs 1,200 (Covaxin).