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COVID-19 vaccine bill likely to shoot up to ₹50,000 crore

The Centre’s spending on the Covid-19 vaccination programme is expected to touch ₹50,000 crore this fiscal year. The government had made a provision for ₹35,000 crore in the Budget.

“We expect the overall expenditure to be in the range of ₹45,000-50,000 crore,” a top Finance Ministry official told BusinessLine, adding that much of this amount has already been spent. Further, the official said that for anything above the budgeted ₹35,000 crore, Parliament’s nod would be sought in the Winter Session, commencing from November 29.

The additional expenditure can be met through savings or from fresh allocation. The actual picture, however, will become clear when the supplementary demand for grants is presented by the Finance Ministry. While presenting the Budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said the government was committed to providing more funds if required.

The official said that initially, vaccines were procured by the Centre at ₹150 a jab. However, with the change in the procurement system, the price had increased to ₹200-220 a jab. The government is also hoping the Biological-E vaccine would bring down the overall bill.

Bio-E, ZyCoV-D jabs
“We estimate the price of this vaccine to be under ₹150 a jab,” the official added. The government has already reserved 30-crore doses of the Biological-E vaccine, which is still going through clinical trials.

The government is also buying ZyCoV-D vaccine which costs about ₹358 for a dose and entails three doses. The Centre is buying one crore doses that will set it back a little above ₹358 crore. The government launched the vaccination programme on January 16. From then on till April end, the programme ran mainly under the supervision of the Centre.

However, from May 1, States were allowed to procure 25 per cent of the vaccines and the remaining 25 per cent by private hospitals. On June 7, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that from June 21, the Centre would provide free vaccines to the States for all citizens above 18.

“The Government will buy 75 per cent of the total vaccine production from vaccine manufacturers and give it to the State governments free,” he had said. The remaining 25 per cent was to be procured by private hospitals.

Approved vaccines
As on date, the approved vaccines include Covishield, Covaxin, Sputnik V, ZyCoV-D, and that of Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna. Of these, the first three are in use while for the rest, various processes are on including discussions on indemnity. The official reiterated that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines may not be used.

It is believed that for Pfizer, very different logistics are needed as this vaccine needs to be stored at -20 degree Celsius. This may not be possible in the public healthcare system. The supply of the Moderna vaccine would be very small, the official said. Prices of these two are reportedly high, but no use will mean no impact on the overall expenditure. With no breakthrough in the indemnity , the official indicated that J&J vaccine could be used only for exports. The Hindu BusinessLine