As India gears up for a massive Covid-19 vaccination drive, experts responsible for making vaccine-related decisions are considering making it available in pharmacies.
Senior government officials told Hindustan Times that if the plan gets the government nod, the shots may be available for private use for those who can afford to shell out money for them. However, the cost of the vaccine may be subsidised in private markets, the officials said.
Three vaccine candidates are currently being considered for emergency use authorisation, including those from AstraZeneca and Pfizer. Bharat Biotech has also applied for emergency approval.
However, the vaccination process will be voluntary.
Highly placed sources within the Union Health Ministry had earlier told News18 that there will not be any attempt to vaccinate people against COVID-19 if they do not wish to do so.
“This is a democracy. Even if you are in a priority group and have been identified as a vulnerable person, you will not be forced to take a vaccine,” a source said on the condition of anonymity. The government has also said that it will not inoculate the entire country against coronavirus. This means priority groups would be inoculated with government support, while healthy adults without any underlying health conditions would have to buy the vaccine like any other medical product.
“The government never spoke about vaccinating the entire country. It is important to get factual information on these things,” said Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan at a press briefing on Tuesday.
“The purpose is to break the chain of entire transmission. If we can vaccinate some and do that we will,” said Professor Balram Bhargava, Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
Discussion is also underway on whether those already infected and those who have developed anti-bodies would need vaccines.
Responding to a question on the government’s strategy on whether there is any need to vaccinate those who have been carriers of the virus SARS CoV-2, the ICMR said this involves two things. One, if patients of COVID-19 can have an adverse effect after vaccination. Second, there is a need to spare vaccines. Both issues are under deliberation.
“The national expert group on vaccine administration is debating on whether people who have got the disease should be vaccinated. No decision has been taken on this yet,” said Bhushan.