New Delhi, Apr 26 (PTI) Free COVID-19 vaccine will be provided to all above 18 years of age in the national capital, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on Monday, saying his government has already approved the purchase of 1.34 crore doses.
He said the Delhi government will make efforts to speed-up the purchases further and administer jabs to people as soon as possible after the inoculation drive opens up on Saturday for everybody above 18.
COVID-19 has begun to affect in a big way those below 18 years of age too, he said, adding if the available vaccines are effective for this age group as well, or if any special vaccines can be manufactured for children, the Centre should allow inoculating this population also.
Delhi has been witnessing surging COVID-19 cases and deaths, as well as an acute oxygen crises as several hospitals have been sending SOS messages every day due to shortage of life-saving gas.
'The Delhi government has decided to provide free COVID-19 vaccines to all those above 18 years of age. We are working on a plan to start large-scale vaccination as soon as possible,' Kejriwal told an online briefing.
Officials later said free vaccines will be made available through Delhi government-run centres. Kerjiwal also appealed to vaccine manufacturers to bring down the price to Rs 150 a dose, saying that they have an entire lifetime to earn profits but this is a time to show humanity. He said the Central government should cap the price of vaccines, if needed.
Last week, the Serum Institute of India (SII) had announced that it would price its Covishield vaccine at Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals and Rs 400 per dose for state governments.
Another vaccine manufacturer, Bharat Biotech, had also announced that its Covaxin would be available to state governments at Rs 600 a dose and private hospitals at Rs 1,200 a dose.
'At a time when Central and state governments are capping the rate at which medicines and other facilities should be made available to people, vaccines should also be moderately priced,' the chief minister said, adding that COVID-19 vaccines should have one price across the nation.
Meanwhile, the Central government Monday asked the Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech to lower price of their COVID-19 vaccines amid criticism from various states who accused the companies of profiteering during such a major crisis.
Kejriwal said that vaccine is emerging as a solution to this raging pandemic, and added that those inoculated are either not contracting the virus or only getting its mild forms.
'They can recover at home and do not have to be admitted to the hospital. Even when they require hospitalisation, their recovery is easy and swift. If we move with this observation, then successful vaccination of everyone will mean that the severity of the pandemic will end. Coronavirus will become like any other disease - manageable and with success rates of recovery,' he said.
Kejriwal also said that the United Kingdom was facing a similar situation as India is today, adding that one of the main factors behind their ability to overcome the wave was a robust vaccination drive.
On Sunday, Delhi recorded 350 COVID-19 deaths and 22,933 cases with a positivity rate of 30.21 percent.
This was the fourth day on the trot that Delhi has recorded over 300 deaths due to coronavirus.
It had reported 357 fatalities, the highest so far since the pandemic began a year ago, on Saturday, 348 on Friday and 306 on Thursday, according to government data. PTI VIT BUN TIR TIR