Private vaccination centres have to return their unused stock of Covid shots to the government by tomorrow and cannot use them for the new round of inoculations opened to all above 18 from May 1 (Saturday). Only central government centres are likely to be able to continue vaccinating people for now.
A central government order says "any unutilized vaccine stocks, balance as on April 30, will have to be returned to the cold chain point from where the stocks were issued."
Effectively, private centres cannot vaccinate anyone until they receive new stocks directly from the manufacturers, which is unlikely to happen by May 1.
The Centre's new liberalized vaccination policy allows vaccine makers to sell half their stocks directly to state governments and private hospitals. The companies will continue to sell the remaining half to the central government at the cheaper rate of Rs 150 a dose.
The order signed by Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Health Ministry, makes it clear that the system of the government supplying vaccines to private inoculation centres at Rs 150 will "cease to exist" from Saturday.
"The state/Union Territory government would therefore need to do a complete stock taking of funds deposited by private Covid Vaccination Centres, the vaccine doses supplied to them, the vaccine doses utilized so far and the doses likely to be utilized till April 30," the order says.
State governments have been asked to make a careful assessment of the potential of vaccine doses at private hospitals being fully utilized before they receive new stocks.
Private hospitals have to buy vaccines at up to Rs 1,200 per dose from Saturday, when vaccinations widen to all adults in the fight to check the spread of Covid.
Serum announced a price of Rs 400 rupees for states and Rs 600 for private hospitals, Bharat Biotech set the prices at Rs 600 and Rs 1,200 a dose.
This is the highest price across the world for Covishield - the Indian name for the vaccine developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca.
Yesterday, Serum announced a price cut to Rs 300 for states and today, Bharat Biotech followed by slashing Covaxin prices for states to Rs 400.