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    Budget will not be a constraint on the rollout of Covid-19 vaccine: Expenditure Secretary TV Somanathan

    Synopsis

    Expenditure secy says health ministry will take a call on who gets it on priority and the costs

    Expenditure Secretary TV Somanathan
    NEW DELHI:The government has adequate resources to ensure delivery of Covid-19 vaccines to everyone as and when they become available.

    “We have our estimates… I can say very clearly, unequivocally, that the budget will not be a constraint on the rollout of the vaccine,” expenditure secretary TV Somanathan told ET. “The Ministry of Finance has the capability to make resources available to ensure that vaccination is not held up on the grounds of availability of resources.”

    The assurance comes amid reports that vaccinating 1.3 billion Indians will be a challenge financially and logistically.

    Asked whether the vaccine would be free, he said the health ministry will take a call on matters such as who gets it on priority and the costs.

    “That’s a policy issue for the health ministry… For the poor and vulnerable, it will be made available,” he said, pointing out that there are many in the country who can afford to pay for a vaccine. “Public funds must always be used with prudence. Who should be given free to and how — I would leave that to health experts to decide the orders of priority.” The health ministry and the committee headed by Niti Aayog member VK Paul are drawing up delivery details, he said.

    ‘No Long-term Planning Possible’
    They “have done a very exhaustive exercise,” Somanathan said. “They have really researched this from end to end, looked at the different vaccine alternatives, which ones are promising.” They have also anticipated the logistics that will be required, he said.

    The rollout will only be dependent on when the vaccine is ready and cash will not be a worry.

    “It is something that we are committed to affording,” he said. “We will make it available.” Cost estimates will be disclosed in the revised budget estimates.

    Somanathan, who has the difficult task of juggling funds in a resource-strained year, said the pandemic and vaccine make for an evolving situation and no long-term planning is possible.

    “Everything is short term — we don't know when the vaccine will be realised and by when it will be available. How many doses will be available, who will be the priority people to get that dose? Is that before March?” The budgeting will take into account these factors, he said.

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    14 Comments on this Story

    Yash Pal36 days ago
    The vaccine should be made available commercially and all private hospitals etc encouraged to vaccinate people for a fixed fee. The capacity of Bharat Biotech to make the vaccine appears to be 300 million units per year ie for 15 crore people. That needs to be increased by asking other companies to manufacture the vaccine. Similarly with Zydus vaccine whose capacity is given to be 100 million doses.
    Kumar 37 days ago
    Day before yesterday, a news paper reported that more than 100,000 refrigerators are required for vaccine storing. Before the arrival of vaccine, these people want to buy refrigerators. Most of the cold storage is preferred over refrigerators. Finally these refrigerators will be purchased and later they vanish from the scene.
    Mohan Kshirsagar37 days ago
    Vaccine expense should be borne by US and China because they are responsible for development of Covid-19 virus.
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