Mumbai, April 28: In a significant development, the Maharashtra government on Wednesday decided to give free vaccine doses to all people in the 18-44 age group from Maharashtra Day, May 1, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced here.
The decision was taken at a state cabinet meeting after which Health Minister Rajesh Tope informed the media about the details of the much-anticipated move.
Thackeray said that the citizens shall be informed of the mega-vaccination drive to be undertaken from May 1, depending on the supply of doses available from various sources, including imports if necessary.
"Despite the financial crises confronting the state, the health of the people is of utmost priority for us which is why the state government has decided to provide free vaccinations to all between 18-44 age group," Thackeray added.
Tope said that currently the vaccines are available from the private Serum Institute of India (SII) and from Bharat Biotech International Ltd (BBIL) and the state government is in touch with them for procuring more doses.
While SII's Covishield will be sold to states at Rs 400/dose, BBIL will sell it for Rs 600/dose, and the prices shall be even higher for private hospitals, though the Centre on Monday appealed that both companies should consider slashing their rates.
Tope said that the state has an estimated 5.71-crore people in the 18-44 age-group and needs around 12-crore vaccines over the next several months.
"At the prevailing rates, the state will have to shell out around Rs 7,500-crore for inoculating the entire 18-44 age group population. In this situation, the state government will bear the cost of vaccinating the economically weaker sections of society," Tope said.
Thackeray appealed to people to first get their names registered on the Vaccination App and not rush to the vaccination centres.