Coronavirus: India reserves Rs. 50,000 crore for vaccinating entire country
The Indian government has reportedly set aside Rs. 50,000 crore to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccine reaches the entire country. People familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi administration has set aside $6-7 (around Rs. 500) for each of the country's 1.3 billion people. India is expecting a COVID-19 vaccine to be ready by early next year.
The government has estimated a figure of $7 billion to vaccinate the entire country, sources told Bloomberg. The funds have been set aside for the current financial year, ending March 31. There will be no shortage for further funds, they said. The government has calculated that two doses of the vaccine will cost $2/shot, and infrastructure costs—such as storage and transport—will cost $2-3/person.
Speaking to the nation on Tuesday, Modi said the government will ensure all Indians have access to a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. A government-appointed panel has concluded that India is past its COVID-19 peak and may contain the infection by February. However, Modi and the experts have cautioned that infections may spike again during the ongoing festive season.
Meanwhile, as of 8 am on Thursday, India had reported 77,06,946 COVID-19, according to the Union Health Ministry's data. Out of these, 7,15,812 are active infections while 68,74,518 people have recovered since the beginning of the pandemic. The death toll is 1,16,616.
On a related note, Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla has said that India would need Rs. 80,000 crore for procuring and inoculating the whole population. The SII is the world's largest vaccine manufacturer and is currently working on the production of Oxford-AstraZeneca's frontrunner vaccine candidate. Biocon founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw added that India's biggest challenge is setting up cold-chain logistics to distribute vaccines.
Further, Mahesh Devnani, an associate professor at Chandigarh's Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) said delivering the vaccine across India "will be a gigantic task." Speaking on a webinar on Wednesday, Devnani said, "We need a prioritization plan, everyone cannot have it initially." Airlifting single-dose regimens to protect the world's population would require space in about 8,000 cargo planes, one estimates says.