Maharashtra, Rajasthan Join States Promising Free Covid-19 Vaccine
File image of Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray.

Maharashtra, Rajasthan Join States Promising Free Covid-19 Vaccine

Maharashtra and Rajasthan have promised free vaccination against the coronavirus after India opened its inoculation programme to all adults amid a crippling second surge of Covid-19.

There will be a free vaccination drive in Maharashtra once it is opened up for all adult citizens above 18, ANI reported on Sunday quoting state minister Nawab Malik.

Rajasthan will also vaccinate people above 18 years free, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot tweeted. That will cost the state about Rs 3,000 crore, he said.

The state joins a growing list of local governments that have already announced free vaccination for their citizens. These include Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Sikkim, Goa, among others. In West Bengal, where polls are underway, both incumbent Trinamool National Congress and the challenger Bharatiya Janata Party have promised free vaccination to adults.

Maharashtra, India's richest state, was the first to witness resurgence of the virus that has now overwhelmed India's healthcare system. As of Sunday, it has 6.96 lakh active cases. And it has imposed strict restrictions to contain the biggest outbreak within India.

Also read: Free To Rs 2,400: What A Covid Vaccine Will Cost You

India has an existing central-funded programme to vaccinate people above 45 free. The debate around pricing of the Covid-19 vaccines started after the central government announced that all citizens above the age of 18 will be eligible for vaccination from May 1, but put the onus on states to whether charge or not. Critics have argued against making citizens pay for the vaccine, while there are others who support market-driven pricing.

After the vaccination was opened to all adults, Serum Institute of India Ltd., making Oxford-Astrazenaca's Covishield in India, announced on April 21 that it will sell its jabs at Rs 400 per dose to states and Rs 600 to private hospitals in India. The company said it will devote 50% of its vaccine production to the central government.

On April 24, Bharat Biotech, the company which produces the Covaxin in partnership with Indian Council for Medical Research, announced that it will sell its shots at Rs 600 per dose to states and Rs 1,200 to private hospitals. Bharat Biotech will export its vaccine at a price of $15-20 per dose.

These are the only two vaccines currently available in India. Apart from these, Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine will be available in India through Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd. at Rs 750 per dose from June. The vaccine was given emergency approvals after acute vaccine shortages were reported across states.

Cadila Healthcare Ltd. also intends to manufacture in India once it receives regulatory approval for its vaccine ZyCoV-D.

Imported vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, J&J may also be available in the future. Their price is difficult to estimate as each has separate agreements with various countries. But reported prices range from $2 to $35.

Also read: This Is ‘Half-Reform’ On Covid-19 Vaccines. Fairly Regulate Monopoly Power

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