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17.56 cr free vaccine doses provided to states: MoS Anurag Thakur
Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur on Sunday said the government has provided 17.56 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses so far to states and union territories for inoculation of people of all age groups and 46 lakh doses will be supplied to them in the next three days.
Thakur's remarks came in response to senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge's letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to use Rs 35,000 crore allocated in the Union Budget to ensure free vaccine for all citizens instead of the current system of multiple pricing for various users.
Pune-based Serum Institute of India is supplying Covishield to the Centre for Rs 150 a dose while to states for Rs 300 a dose. Private Hospitals are getting it at double the state's price at Rs 600.
Whereas, Covaxin manufacturer Bharat Biotech has priced its vaccine at Rs 150 a dose for the Centre, Rs 600 a dose for state governments and Rs 1,200 a dose for private hospitals.
Both anti-COVID vaccines are administered in two doses.
Calling for free inoculation, leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Kharge in his letter said the Parliament had allocated Rs 35,000 crore in the Union budget to ensure free vaccines for all.
He also urged the prime minister to immediately convene an all-party meeting to collectively forge a holistic blueprint to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic
Dispelling claims of vaccine shortage in states, Thakur said 72 lakh doses are still available with states and union territories.
On further supply of vaccines, he said that "1.5 lakh doses of Sputnik V have already reached India and RDIF has also tied up with local Indian companies for bulk production."
In a series of tweets, the minister highlighted various measures taken by the government to increase supply of medicine and liquid medical oxygen, add more beds and distribute foreign aid to various states to fight the pandemic.
The minister stressed that India is running the world's fastest and largest vaccination drive and 15 crore people have been administered doses in the past three months.
"COVID vaccines are being provided free of cost by the government of India to those who are 45 years of age and above and to all frontline workers," Thakur said.
On exempting vaccines from the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the minister said a nominal five per cent GST is in interest of the domestic manufacturer of vaccine and in the interest of citizens.
If full exemption from GST is given, vaccine manufacturers would not be able to offset their input taxes and would pass them on to the end consumer or citizen by increasing the price, he added.
"Five per cent GST rate ensures that the manufacturer is able to utilise ITC and in case of overflow of ITC, claim refund. Exemption to vaccine from GST would be counterproductive without benefiting the consumer," a tweet by Thakur said.
He also said the government has provided full exemption from Customs duties, including integrated GST, is already available to all COVID relief material imported by the Indian Red Cross Society for free distribution in the country to help contain the spread.
India recorded more than four lakh cases in a 24-hour span for the fourth consecutive day on Sunday. According to Union health ministry, 4,03,738 new COVID-19 cases were recorded in the said period, which took the nationwide tally to 2,22,96,414.
The death toll climbed to 2,42,362 with 4,092 daily deaths, as per the data released on Sunday.
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