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Maharashtra to give free Covid vaccine to 18-plus in govt centres

NCP minister Nawab Malik said, "The Maharashtra government wants to make vaccine free for 18 plus. A formal decision will be taken by CM Uddhav Thackeray on May 1."

Covid-19Vaccination drive underway at a hospital in Thane (Express photo by Deepak Joshi)

The state government has decided to give Covid-19 vaccine free of cost to all those aged 18 and above in government centres. The vaccination for 18-45 age group will start from May 1, and people will be able to register and book a slot April 28 onwards.

NCP minister Nawab Malik said, “The Maharashtra government wants to make vaccine free for 18 plus. A formal decision will be taken by CM Uddhav Thackeray on May 1.”

The Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena coalition is of the view that vaccine for everybody in the state should be free. Accordingly, the state government is working on its strategy.

On Sunday, state Tourism and Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray tweeted that Maharashtra will provide vaccine free for all, but later retracted his comment and deleted the tweet. “The government of Maharashtra has decided to vaccinate its citizens free of cost. This is not something that we think of as a choice, but a duty that we consider of utmost importance: protecting the citizens from Covid,” Thackeray had tweeted.

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By evening, Thackeray deleted his tweet and issued a clarification that he does not wish to cause any confusion. “The official policy of vaccination will be declared by the empowered committee and we must await its recommendation for a fair policy for all sections of society. My apologies for the confusion if it all it may have caused,” he tweeted.

Congress leaders have been mounting pressure on the CM to not charge people for Covid vaccine. They believe that to make the vaccine implementation successful, free vaccination is necessary. Congress leaders said vaccination should not financially burden poor segments of society. Earlier, Health Minister Rajesh Tope had also told The Indian Express that if possible vaccination would be free of cost for the poor.

Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat said, “Our leader Sonia Gandhi is of the view that vaccine should be free to everybody. We have conveyed our leader’s view to the CM.”

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On Saturday, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar had indicated that the government will invite global tenders to procure vaccine. After scrutiny it will award the contract to lowest bidders, Pawar had told reporters.

 

A senior health official in Maharashtra said discussions are under way on how to proceed with procurement of vaccines. Talks are also under way with Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India.

Vaccine shortage has been constantly hampering the current immunisation programme, and on Saturday 2.17 lakh people were vaccinated, about a lakh less than the usual numbers due to non-availability of vaccine doses in several centres.

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In the coming week, Maharashtra will ramp up training of more vaccinators, start registration of more centres to increase vaccination points, and rope in industrial associations and industrial establishments for vaccination of their employees.

A total of 8.5 crore people in the state are aged above 18 years, of them an estimated 5 crore are in the 18-45 years age group. People in 18-45 age bracket can start registering themselves and book slots from April 28 on CoWin app.

Officials from the health department said the Centre has informed the state government that it would continue to provide vaccine stock for the 45-plus age group, but the state would have to do its own procurement to immunise those under 45 years. A senior official said discussion is under way on various aspects— whether tender should be called, or an order should be placed with few manufacturers. “We have limited days to procure. A decision on all this will be taken soon,” an official said.

First published on: 25-04-2021 at 06:01:06 pm
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