People in Kerala will be vaccinated for free whenever the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram today. With this announcement, Kerala joins a growing list of states that have said they would vaccinate people for free, such as BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. The BJP promised free vaccination in Bihar just before election to the legislative assembly in October.
"This (COVID-19 vaccination) is an important issue. This is one thing a majority of people are thinking now. There needn't be any doubt. While the extent of the availability of the vaccine for people in Kerala is an issue that needs to be looked into, but available vaccine will be provided for free. The government does not intend to take money for that (vaccination) from anyone. We will take steps for free distribution," Mr Vijayan told reporters.
"The fact is that the number of COVID-19 cases is decreasing, which is a matter of relief. However, it needs to be seen if the local body polls, two phases of which are over, would contribute to increase in cases. That will be known only in the days to come," Mr Vijayan said, news agency PTI reported.
Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine maker, is mass producing and stockpiling AstraZeneca's Covishield shot, while other Indian biotech players Bharat Biotech and Zydus Cadila are developing their own vaccine candidates.
Only 100 people per "session" are likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the centre has said in a document that explores how best to deploy the vaccine whenever it is available. The number of people per "session" may go up to 200 if logistics allow, the government has said. It said states and union territories can fix the days for vaccination.
The 112-page document, "COVID-19 Vaccines Operational Guidelines", also contains details about training vaccine workers and keeping logistics in place. The vaccines would need cold storage units to keep them in usable condition.
Kerala today reported 5,949 new coronavirus cases and 32 deaths. The total cases are now 6.64 lakh and the fatalities so far are 2,594, Mr Vijayan said, PTI reported.
The day also saw 5,268 people getting cured; total recoveries rose to 6.61 lakh.