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Maharashtra cabinet announces free vaccination to all in 18-44 age group, extends lockdown

The Cabinet also approved a proposal to start Covid-19 vaccine production at state-owned Haffkine Bio Pharmaceutical Corporation.

Written by Vishwas Waghmode | Mumbai |
Updated: April 28, 2021 9:34:25 pm
Maharashtra, Covid-19Making the announcement of free vaccinations for the 18-44 age group, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said the health department is chalking out details of the programme. (Photo: Twitter/@OfficeofUT)

The Maharashtra Cabinet on Wednesday decided to provide free vaccination to all those in the age group of 18 to 44 years. However, the government said that it would not start the vaccination drive from May 1 due to unavailability of vaccines.

The Cabinet also decided to extend the restrictions currently in place. However, it has not been decided how long the curbs will continue.

Making the announcement of free vaccinations for the 18-44 age group, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said the health department is chalking out details of the programme. “People will be informed in advance. There should not be any unnecessary crowding at vaccination centres,” he said in a statement from his office.

Thackeray added that despite facing an economic crisis, Maharashtra decided to provide free vaccines as the health of the people is its highest priority. “The vaccination programme will be chalked out based on supply and announced accordingly,” he said while instructing the administration to provide proper and clear instructions to the people.

“The vaccination drive will not start from May 1 even if we want to due to unavailability of vaccines,” Health Minister Rajesh Tope told mediapersons.

He added that 5.71 crore people in the 18 to 44 age group will be vaccinated. “For this, the state will have to buy 12 crore doses, which will cost Rs 6,500 crore, considering the government will have to pay approximately Rs 400 per dose. The Cabinet has given approval for this expenditure,” he said.

He further said that the government has decided to vaccinate everyone in the next six months and will require 2 crore doses per month for this.

The state will have to immunise 6 lakh to 7 lakh people per day to be able to meet the deadline. Currently, 3 lakh to 4 lakh people are being vaccinated a day.

However, people will have to pay for vaccines if they take their doses in private hospitals. “While vaccines will be provided free of cost in government hospitals, people will have to pay for it in private hospitals,” said Tope.

He added that Bharat Biotech has informed the state that it can provide only 5 lakh doses in May, 10 lakh each in June and July and 20 lakh doses each in the subsequent three months.

“The Serum Institute of India has orally communicated that it will provide 1 crore doses per month. The CM is also holding discussions on Russion vaccine Sputnik V and we will buy it if it is available at fair rates. Other vaccines such as Zydus and Jonhson and Johnson will be available in August and September,” said Tope. Cadila’s ZyCov-vaccine D is also slated is hit the global market by May or June, said officials.

Also, the government is planning to come up with different categories in the 18 to 44 age group. “A committee of senior ministers and health officials has been formed for micro-planning the drive. The committee will look at creating different groups, such as 18 to 25, 25 to 35 and 35 to 44. It is also being considered whether people with comorbidity can be given first preference. We will decide soon,” said Tope.

However, the government clarified that registration is mandatory for vaccination and no walk-in facility will be available. “It is mandatory to use the CoWin app for registration. People can be vaccinated only after registering on the app. No one should go directly to a centre and ask for a vaccine. The Union government has made registration mandatory,” said Tope.

He further said that vaccination centres for the 18 to 44 age group will be different from the existing ones for those above 45 years of age.

Officials said there are 13,000 health institutions, including sub-centres, primary health centres as well as district and rural hospitals, where vaccination can be administered. They added that they expect about 40 to 50 per cent people to opt for private vaccination centres and the load on government centres will not be huge.

The state is also in talks with the Centre to fix a price cap on what a private hospital can charge per dose. Private hospitals are engaging with state over a collective purchase order and later distribution to hospitals and industries.

Maintaining that the Cabinet has decided to extend the lockdown, Tope said: “All the ministers told the CM to extend the lockdown. While the decision has been taken, it is yet to be decided for how many days will the lockdown be extended. In my opinion, it may be extended by 15 days.”

The Cabinet also approved a proposal to start Covid-19 vaccine production at state-owned Haffkine Bio Pharmaceutical Corporation. While the Union government has sanctioned Rs 65 crore for it, the state will spend Rs 94 crore from the contingency fund on the project. Earlier this month, the Centre has given approval to Haffkine produce Covaxin.

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