According to Experts, the Indian Government is expected to adopt a more realistic approach to vaccinating its large population against the COVID-19 because the country’s ballooning fiscal deficit and low revenues have shrunk the budget that could probably have been allocated for nationwide immunization.
Vaccination cannot be possible within a calendar year. It may spread for several years. Therefore, the cost will not increase significantly within a year and may appear in stages within two years or so. The government should be able to allocate more resources to it because this is the most critical thing to restore economic activities., N.R Bhanumurthy, a professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy said.
Bhanumurthy also said that the government can consider shifting expenditure from the current plan for vaccination plans that may not be urgent, which will also greatly reduce the government’s financial burden.
If there are successful candidates, the vaccine is considered as the best shot under normal circumstances, but the estimated cost is to be enormous. A report by international broker Sanford Bernstein last week estimated that vaccinating 61% of the population to achieve herd immunity may require an investment of about $6 billion in three years. Taking into account financial constraints, the government may not be willing to bear this cost. It is estimated that only 30% of the population will pay a price of US$2 billion for this and expect the rest to go to the private market. The health secretary Rajesh Bhushan often alluded that this will involve prioritizing the population and for which a National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration has established.
Naveen Thacker, the former representative of civil society organizations for Gavi, the vaccine alliance, said “In my opinion, the first task will vaccinate health care workers, pregnant women, people with comorbidities, and the elderly. It is also important that vaccines should be available in the private market for those who can pay for it, which is up to 25% in some states.”
Sakthivel Selvaraj, director of health economics, finance, and policy at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), stated that this work is expected to be staggered and he hopes that the government will vaccinate medical staff first, then security personnel, the elderly population, and may gradually extend to other vulnerable groups in the next financial year.
However, such plans have not been specifically informed in concrete terms to the vaccine manufacturers. We have not yet known how many doses of vaccine the government will purchase. The government is still examining how much capacity we have, but has not yet informed us how much capacity they want, said a vaccine manufacturer, on the condition of anonymity.
Like in other countries, the economic impact on India from the pandemic and the resulting lockdown has been severe. From April to June, India’s fiscal deficit reached 6.63 trillion rupees, accounting for 83.3% of the target for the entire fiscal year, bringing this ratio to the highest level in more than two decades.
The ballooning deficit is due to the shrinking of revenue streams because of the lockdown chocked consumption and the increase in expenditure to tackle the pandemic. In the last quarter, GST revenue fell by more than half, and although it was “unlock” since then, normal conditions have not yet fully returned.
The COVID-19 vaccination may trigger enormous costs, but at the same time, it is also important to continue these productions. Otherwise, the economic losses will be huge. To reduce future losses, the government will have to venture towards vaccinations. International collaboration can reduce the price of vaccination, said Arup Mitra, a health economist, and professor of economics at Delhi University.
Within six months, the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 has infected more than 5 million people worldwide and killed 3,70,000 people. No doubt, a vaccine is urgently needed to eliminate this threat. The Ministry of Health of India estimates that the COVID-19 vaccine will be available within 1.5-2 years.