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COVID vax not exported at expense of Indians: Harsh Vardhan

A total of 5.94 crore doses of Indian-made COVID-19 vaccine has been exported to 72 countries till March 15 but it is in no way being sent at the expense of the people of India, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan informed Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

Replying to supplementaries during Question Hour, he said so far around 3 crore people have been administered the COVID vaccine and on Monday alone a total of 30.39 lakh people in the country took the jabs.

“So far the government has provided 5.94 crore vaccine doses to 72 countries till yesterday. This has been done as the government considers that the whole world is our family,” he told the house.

“The vaccine provided to Indians is also being sent to foreign countries, but it is no way being sent at the expense of people of India,” the minister also said.

“We also consider that the benefits of science should reach globally. The technology could be local, but the entire humanity should benefit from it,” he said.

A government committee and experts are looking at this at the highest level and are maintaining a reasonably sensible balance in this regard, he said.

The minister said the rates of the vaccine have also been kept at a minimum of Rs 250 in private hospitals, of which Rs 100 is given to the hospital, and it is free at government hospitals.

“The pricing strategy of the vaccine has kept with a cap of Rs 150 on the vaccine and the government is working with complete seriousness on the issue,” he said.

Replying to another supplementary, the minister said that the health ministry, especially the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC), keeps in touch with all the latest developments happening anywhere in the country and also outside the country.

Whatever decisions are taken by the ministry and whatever guidelines are issued, these are made only after considering all the valid and relevant aspects of the particular subject, he said.

Earlier, in a written reply in Rajya Sabha, he said, “As on March 15, 2021, a total of 5.86 crore doses of ‘Made in India’ COVID-19 vaccines have been provided to 71 countries as grant by Govt. of India, as well as commercial sales by manufacturers and as part of international agreements of manufacturers with COVAX facility which has more than 190 member countries,” providing details of the export of ‘Made in India’ COVID-19 vaccines.

External supplies are being undertaken with due regard to domestic production, he said.

“Priority is accorded to utilisation of doses within the country and ensuring adequate availability for the national vaccination programme,” he said.

On whether the government is considering to provide COVID-19 vaccines to all citizens free of cost, Vardhan said the vaccine is being given free of cost at government COVID-19 vaccination centres while at private facilities, it is available at a ceiling cost of Rs 250 per dose per person.

In response to a question on whether the process of vaccination is going at a very slow pace, Vardhan said, “The current rate of COVID-19 vaccination is satisfactory and is being further increased through increase in number of COVID-19 Vaccination Centres (CVCs) in both government and private health facilities.”

The NEGVAC has prioritised healthcare workers, frontline workers, persons aged 60 years and above, and those aged between 45 and 59 years with 20 identified comorbidities for COVID-19 vaccination.

The COVID-19 vaccination is an ongoing and dynamic process, which is being expanded to include beneficiary groups as prioritised by NEGVAC.

In view of dynamic nature of COVID-19 pandemic and inclusion of new priority groups, no time frame at present can be indicated for completion of vaccination, he said. Deccan Herald