By Linus Garg
First publised on 2022-07-13 16:30:52
In a welcome move, the Centre has announced that on the occasion of Azadi Ka Amrit Kaal being celebrated for 75 years of Indian Independence, all adults will be given free Covid booster doses from 15th of July for 75 days, that is till 26th of September. Since the vaccination drive has lost steam and since free booster doses are currently being given to only senior citizens, frontline and healthcare workers, this is a good decision which will perhaps make people take the booster dose.
Ideally, the booster dose should have been free for all at government facilities, with an option for those who wished to pay for it to get jabbed at a private facility. But the government had allocated only Rs 5000cr in 2022-23 for jabs to 15-17-age-group and senior citizens, frontline and healthcare workers, with a promise to increase the allocation if needed. Since tax collections have improved, the government should have allocated Rs 10000cr more for vaccination this fiscal and that could have provided free booster doses to all adults at the reduced price at which the government gets the doses.
However, since that was not done, this limited window for booster doses should be used to bring the vaccination drive back on track. Statistics show that less than 31 percent of senior citizens have received the booster dose and, alarmingly, less than 1 percent in the age group of 18-59 has received it nationally. This needs to be changed and in these 75 days, the government should try to jab as many people as it can by launching a massive vaccination drive as it was done in the initial days.