Issues in Present Policy of Vaccine Procurement

Synopsis: Analysis on issues associated with the Liberalised and Accelerated Phase 3 Strategy of COVID-19 Vaccination

Background
  • Many State governments have resorted to floating global tenders for COVID-19 vaccines due to Covid vaccine shortage in India.
  • The Liberalised and Accelerated Phase 3 Strategy of COVID-19 Vaccination allows states to procure COVID-19 vaccines independently of the global market for people above the age of 18 years.
  • However, the Liberalised and Accelerated Phase 3 Strategy of COVID-19 Vaccination has many disadvantages.
  • A single global tender for vaccine procurement through the center will be more effective in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
What are the issues in the Liberalised and Accelerated Phase 3 Strategy of COVID-19 Vaccination?
  • First, the Liberalised and Accelerated Phase 3 Strategy of COVID-19 Vaccination allows all persons, above 18 years of age to get COVID-19 vaccine doses.
    • However, expanding eligibility in the absence of sufficient vaccine supplies will only spread vaccines thinly.
  • Second, the burden to procure vaccines for the population of the 18-44 years age group has been shifted to the States. This has many disadvantages,
    • One, determination of prices by an oligopolistic market favours unhealthy competition among States.
    • Two, States will have to procure doses at higher rates than a single national purchaser. As a result of the new strategy, each vaccine dose will be costlier in India than in any other part of the world.
  • All these issues will result in unequal distribution of vaccines among states (Vaccine inequity).
What needs to be done?
  • One, government needs to revisit the vaccine policy and use the limited vaccine supply for the adult high-risk and vulnerable group of population.
  • Two, vaccination for the 18-44 years age group can be reconsidered when vaccine supply is likely to stabilise.
  • Three, Central government should coordinate with the States and make efforts to float a single global tender for vaccine procurement.
    • The fact that the federal government has provided vaccines free to all, even in the United States, should be an eye-opener for India.
    • Further, procurement of vaccines by the center and administration of vaccines by the states will ensure effective vaccine delivery. For instance, Polio.
    • This mechanism of division of labour among centre-state should not be disturbed. The current vaccine strategy burdens States with additional procurement responsibilities that need to be done away with.

Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the right to health. Right to health encompasses accessible, available, and affordable health care. Hence, it is the duty of the central government to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are accessible, available, and affordable.

Source: The Hindu

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