On March 2, former Chief Minister of Maharashtra and Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan questioned why the central government was charging for the Covid-19 vaccine in phase-II of the vaccination drive when Rs.35,000 crore were earmarked for it.
In the budget speech FM @nsitharaman announced Rs 35,000 cr for the vaccination drive. With that amount Govt can procure & distribute 1.5 billion doses covering 75 cr population. Why is the @narendramodi Govt charging for vaccines then? #Covaxin pic.twitter.com/qaDVvrQd3s— Prithviraj Chavan (@prithvrj) March 2, 2021
He said, “According to the budget speech delivered by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on February 1, 2021, Rs 35,000 crore has been earmarked for the vaccination drive. In this amount, at the cost of Rs 210 per dose, more than 1.5 billion doses can be procured, which can inoculate 75 crore population twice, covering almost the entire adult population of India. If budgetary provisions are made then, why charge common people?”
Chavan said that the central government had procured 1.65 crore doses of vaccine at the cost of Rs.210 per dose. Compared to India, large countries like the USA, UK or Canada are providing the vaccines for free to their citizens via insurance schemes or budgetary provisions. He said, “I demand all beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogy Yojana (Aayushman Bharat) must be given free Covid-19 vaccine. Unfortunately, despite lofty budgetary announcements and India being the largest supplier of the Covid-19 vaccine, Modi government is digging into the common man’s pocket.”
He claimed that people over the age of 60 and over the age of 45 with co-morbidity could get inoculated at the designated centres by paying Rs 250. The fact is that the above-mentioned population group can get the vaccine absolutely free of cost in government vaccination centres.
Chavan’s statement is factually incorrect
As per the central government’s announcement, the Covid-19 vaccine is free in government hospitals. Private hospitals can charge for the vaccine. However, there is a cap of Rs.250 on the vaccine price that includes Rs.100 for the hospital charges. While making the statement, Chavan conveniently skipped the fact that government hospitals will not charge for the vaccine.
The central government will procure the vaccine and distribute it to the states as per the requirement. The state governments will then distribute them to the government hospitals and private hospitals that have enrolled as Covid Vaccination Centers (CVCs). Over 10,000 private hospitals enrolled under Ayushman Bharat PMJAY, over 600 hospitals under CGHS, and other private hospitals enrolled under State Schemes as Covid vaccination centres.
Registration and charges
Everyone has to register for a vaccine shot on the Co-Win2.0 portal or Arogya Setu app and choose the vaccination centre. If the person chooses to go to a government hospital, the vaccine will be free of cost. However, if the person chose to go to a private hospital, he will have to pay Rs.250. Chavan claimed that poor citizens would have to pay Rs.250, which is factually incorrect. They can choose to go to a government hospital and get the shot for free. The provision of availability of vaccines at private hospitals was introduced after public demand for more convenience and options for people.
Keeping in mind that the government is procuring vaccine at Rs.210 per shot, the price of the vaccine in private hospitals is already subsidized, as the private hospital will only pay Rs.150 per shot to the government. Apart from that, it is up to the state government if they want to provide vaccine to private hospitals for free. Notably, the NDA-led Bihar government has already announced that the vaccination will be free in both government and private hospitals. Congress-led states can also follow the Bihar government’s footsteps and announce the same if they want to. During his statement, Chavan could have at least urged Congress-led states to announce free vaccine instead of allegedly spread misinformation.
Money was earmarked for vaccination drive
Rs.35,000 crores were allotted for the vaccination drive in the budget. Vaccination drive is not limited to the procurement of the vaccine, but it covers distribution, storage, logistics, infrastructure, and human capital. The finance minister had kept a provision for additional funds for the vaccination drive if required.