A medic administers a dose of Covid-19 vaccine to a beneficiary at Nair Hospital, in Mumbai, Wednesday, April 06, 2022. First case of new Covid-19 variant called XE has been detected in Mumbai. (PTI)
NEW DELHI: In a major move, the Centre has allowed booster doses or what it calls precautionary doses of the Covid-19 vaccine for everyone above 18 years of age at private healthcare centres from April 10. All those aged 18 or above and have completed nine months after the administration of the second dose, will be eligible for the booster dose.
"Adding an extra layer of safety! Precaution dose to be available to the 18+ age group from April 10, at private vaccination centres. All 18+ who have completed nine months after the administration of the second dose would be eligible for precaution dose," Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya twitted.
The health ministry, however, made it clear that the ongoing free government vaccination drive for first, second as well as precautionary dose for healthcare workers, frontline workers and senior citizens will continue. The ministry said that the drive will also be further accelerated.
The move to allow booster doses for all adults is expected to liquidate inventory lying with vaccine makers. Both Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech had stopped Covid-19 vaccine production recently owing to low demand and inventory pile up. Some private hospitals also have vaccine stocks lying with them.
Calling it a crucial and timely decision, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla said it will further provide long-term protection against the virus. He said people who wished to travel were finding it difficult to do so without a third dose as several countries have placed restrictions on those who have not taken a booster dose.
Unlike the booster shots announced for healthcare workers, frontline staff and those above 60, the third jab will not be free for most adults. "End-users will pay Rs 600 for the booster dose and the hospitals will get the shots at a discounted price," Mr Poonawalla said in a statement.
Last June, the Centre had capped the administration charges for private vaccination centres at Rs 150 per dose. The Centre instructed private centers 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.
Covishield costs Rs 600 per dose for private centers, while Covaxin costs Rs 1,200 per dose, and Sputnik V is priced at Rs 948 per dose (excluding GST). Biological E has said that it would price Corbevax at Rs 800 per dose (excluding all taxes).
In a letter to the health ministry, SII had said in March that it is 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 at private vaccination centers yet.
Both SII and Bharat Biotech had stopped production of Covid-19 vaccines and were focusing on non-Covid vaccines as demand dwindled. SII has an inventory of 200-250 million doses of Covishield, while Bharat Biotech claims it has completed all its supply commitments.
India has so far administered over 185.38 crore vaccines for Covid-19 to its eligible population. Over 2.4 crore precaution doses have also been administered to healthcare workers, frontline workers and elders above 60 years of age. About 96 per cent of all 15 plus population in the country have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, while about 83 per cent of 15 plus population has received both doses. Nearly 45 per cent of the 12 to 14 years age group have also received the first dose.
India had started the administration of precaution doses for everyone above 60 years of age on March 16. Earlier, precaution dose was allowed only for the healthcare workers, frontline workers and those above 60 years of age with comorbidities issue.
Precaution dose is the third dose of the same vaccine that one has been administered against the SARS-CoV-2 infection. The necessity of a third dose was felt worldwide with the emergence of newer variants of the virus, while the immunity produced by two doses of the vaccine wanes gradually.
Despite concerns over new mutations of the coronavirus, including the XE variant, infections in India have fallen to their lowest in more than a year, with 1,109 new cases reported in the past 24 hours and 43 deaths. The country’s total tally of infections now stands at more than 4.3 crore, with 5.21 lakh deaths.
The active cases comprise 0.03 per cent of the total infections, while the national Covid-19 recovery rate stands at 98.76 per cent. There has been a reduction of 147 cases in the active Covid-19 caseload in a span of 24 hours. The daily positivity rate was recorded as 0.24 per cent and the weekly positivity rate as 0.23 per cent. The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 4,25,00,002, while the case fatality rate has been recorded at 1.21 per cent.