Health Ministry not to procure fresh COVID-19 vaccines; surrenders ₹4,237 crore from vaccination budget

The Health Ministry is surrendering nearly 85% of the 2022-23 budget allocation for inoculation purposes to the Finance Ministry

October 16, 2022 06:15 pm | Updated 06:29 pm IST - New Delhi:

A health worker administering COVID-19 Vaccine to a person at a Primary Health Centre in Puducherry. File.

A health worker administering COVID-19 Vaccine to a person at a Primary Health Centre in Puducherry. File. | Photo Credit: S. S. Kumar

The government’s COVID-19 vaccination programme is in its final leg with the Health Ministry deciding against procuring more vaccines as of now and surrendering ₹4,237 crore, or nearly 85% of the 2022-23 budget allocation for inoculation purposes, to the Finance Ministry.

Official sources told PTI that more than 1.8 crore doses are still available with the governments at the Centre and in States and the stock is sufficient to continue the vaccination drive for around six months, given the low uptake of vaccines among people due to declining COVID-19 case burden.

Even if the government‘s stock gets exhausted, COVID-19 vaccines will be available in the market.

“Any decision on whether to procure COVID-19 vaccine doses through the government channel or get (fresh) budget allocations for the purpose after six months will depend on the coronavirus situation prevailing in the country at that time,” an official source told PTI.

As part of the nationwide vaccination drive which began on January 16 last year, the Government of India has been supporting States and Union territories by providing them COVID-19 vaccines free of cost.

Since COVID-19 cases have been low, a sense of complacency has grown among people and there has not been much demand of vaccines even though the government conducted a 75-day drive — ‘Covid Vaccination Amrit Mahotsava’ — to administer booster doses to all adults free of cost.

“Considering this and the vaccines in the stockpile nearing their expiry date, the decision has been taken not to procure any more vaccines for now. Also, the Union Health Ministry has surrendered to the Finance Ministry the balance of ₹4,237.14 crore from its 2022-23 budget allocation of ₹5,000 crore for inoculation purposes,” the source said.

The cumulative COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country has crossed 219.32 crore, according to provisional reports till 7 a.m. on Sunday.

Official sources said 98% of India’s adult population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine while 92% have been fully vaccinated.

Besides, 83.7% of adolescents aged 15 to 18 years have been vaccinated with the first dose since the vaccination for this age group began on January 3, while 72% have got both the first and second doses.

In the age-group of 12-14 years, 87.3% have been administered the first dose while 68.1% are fully vaccinated.

Of the total eligible target population of 18 years and above, a little over 27% have been administered precaution doses so far.

The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on January 16 last year with healthcare workers getting inoculated in the first phase. Vaccination of frontline workers started from February 2 last year.

The next phase of COVID-19 vaccination commenced on March 1 last year for people over 60 years of age and those aged 45 and above with specified comorbid conditions.

Vaccination for all people aged more than 45 years began on April 1 last year. The government then decided to expand the ambit of the vaccination drive by allowing everyone above 18 years to be inoculated against COVID-19 from May 1 last year.

Inoculation of adolescents in the age group of 15-18 years commenced on January 3.

India began administering precaution doses of vaccines to healthcare and frontline workers and those aged 60 and above with comorbidities from January 10.

The country began inoculating children aged 12-14 from March 16 and also removed the comorbidity clause making all people aged above 60 eligible for the precaution dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

India on April 10 began administering precaution doses of COVID-19 vaccines to all aged above 18 years.

The cumulative vaccine doses administered in the country crossed the 100-crore mark on October 21 last year and 150 crore on January 7 this year. The total doses administered in the country surpassed the 200-crore mark on July 17.

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