Kerala becomes fourth state to promise free COVID-19 vaccines
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday said that COVID-19 vaccines will be provided for free in the state. The CM said that it remains unclear how many vaccine doses the central government will set aside for the state. The Centre has not approved any COVID-19 vaccines yet, however, three potential candidates are under consideration by India's drug regulator.
'Government will bear all expenses'
Addressing an evening press briefing, Vijayan said, "The government will bear all expenses (for vaccines). We are ready once the Union Health Ministry gets us enough ampoules," Hindustan Times reported. Vijayan said that preference would be given to frontline health workers. Earlier, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, and Puducherry had announced free vaccines, while Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had demanded free vaccines across India.
How bad is the outbreak in Kerala?
Vijayan said that the number of COVID-19 cases is declining in the state. The state has reported 6,64,632 COVID-19 cases, with 5,949 new infections in the past 24 hours (daily positivity rate: 9.96%). Vijayan highlighted that the state's death rate is below 0.5%, well under the national average of 1.3%. The death toll has climbed to 2,594 with 32 more fatalities.
CM urges people to continue following precautions
Further, the CM asked people to continue following COVID-19 appropriate behavior mandated by the government, warning that the situation could worsen otherwise. He also asked those suffering from post-COVID complications to take plenty of rest and seek help at government-designated clinics for post-COVID care. Officials have said that the vaccination schedule would be finalized in accordance with the central government's order.
Three potential vaccines under consideration for emergency approval
Notably, India has not approved any COVID-19 vaccines as of now. However, three vaccine candidates are under consideration by the drug regulator, including Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield, Pfizer-BioNTech's BNT162b2, and Bharat Biotech's COVAXIN. India has already pre-booked 1.6 billion vaccine doses, including 500 million doses of Covishield, which is being manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine producer.