The precaution dose, or the third shot, of Covid-19 vaccine will be available to all Indian adults at private vaccination centres from April 10 (Sunday), the Union health ministry announced on Friday. And, one will have to pay for getting the booster dose.
However, the ongoing free vaccination programme through government vaccination centres for the first and second doses to the eligible population, as well as the precaution dose to healthcare workers, frontline workers, and 60+ population, would continue, the ministry said, adding that the drive would be further accelerated.
“Adding an extra layer of safety!…All 18+ who have completed nine months after administration of the second dose would be eligible for the precaution dose,” Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya tweeted.
The move, which comes amid a scare over the XE variant, is expected to liquidate inventory lying with vaccine makers. Both Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech had stopped Covid-19 vaccine production recently owing to low demand and inventory pile-up.
Commenting on the development, Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer, SII, said, “We are delighted by GoI’s announcement on boosters. The decision will further provide long-term protection and aid ease of travel.”
Poonawalla also indicated to some television channels that SII may supply the vaccines to private hospitals at below Rs 600 per dose.
Private hospitals, however, are in a wait-and-watch mode. Dilip Jose, managing director (MD) of India’s second-largest hospital chain Manipal Hospitals, said, “We have some stock available and would wait to see the response before placing fresh orders.”
About 96 per cent of children above 15 years have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, while 83 per cent have received both doses.
India has administered 1.85 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines so far, according to the CoWin dashboard. Covishield accounts for 83.3 per cent of all doses administered in India, while Covaxin accounts for about 16 per cent of the total doses.
Close to 23 million precaution doses have been administered to healthcare and frontline workers along with senior citizens after the population segments opened up in the first week of January.
The Centre had capped the administration charges for private vaccination centres at Rs 150 per dose in June last year. The government instructed private vaccination centres not to charge more than Rs 780 for Covishield, Rs 1,410 for Covaxin, and Rs 1,145 for Sputnik V including taxes and administration charges.
Excluding GST, Covishield costs Rs 600 per dose at private centres, while Covaxin costs Rs 1,200 per dose, and Sputnik V is priced at Rs 948 per dose. Biological E has said it would price Corbevax at Rs 800 per dose (excluding taxes).
In a letter to the health ministry, SII had said in March that it was looking to price Covovax (Novavax vaccine) at Rs 900 (excluding taxes) in the private market. Zydus Lifesciences supplies its three-dose DNA vaccine ZyCoV-D to the Centre at Rs 265 per dose, and the needle-free applicator device costs Rs 93 per dose. Both Covovax and ZyCoV-D are not available in private vaccination centers yet.