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Why experts are not happy with India’s COVID-19 vaccine procurement, pricing policy

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The Narendra Modi government’s recent strategy in respect of vaccination against COVID-19 has drawn flak from a section of public healthcare experts as well as economists.

The Union government recently announced two crucial steps: Vaccine makers can sell half their COVID-19-related stock to states and the private sector and vaccination would open up for the 18-45 age group May 1, 2021; but they won’t be sponsored by the Centre, like others have been until now.

Earlier, the central government had agreed to provide emergency use approval for vaccine candidates that have been okayed by the developed countries.

Soon after the Centre’s decision, Serum Institute of India Pvt Ltd priced its Covishield vaccine at Rs 600 a shot for private providers and Rs 400 for states, later scaled down to Rs 300. Bharat Biotech International Ltd has priced a single dose of its Covaxin at a flat Rs 600. Every recipient must take two doses of either vaccine.

Experts slammed the move by the Centre to allow COVID-19 vaccine makers to sell 50 per cent of their stock directly to states and the open market.

More than 20 states, including Kerala, Delhi, Maharashtra, Haryana, Odisha, Jharkhand and Karnataka, have announced free vaccination either for all or particular age groups.

State governments, which have no prior experience in procuring vaccines, will end up spending 27 per cent of their health budget on an average, Anjela Taneja, lead (inequality, health, and education) for charity network Oxfam, told Down To Earth. The figure is based on an estimation done by Oxfam for an upcoming report.

“At least 27 per cent of the state health budget 2021 will go into just getting the vaccination done. How will the procurement of medical oxygen, ventilators, hospitals and medicines happen?” she asked.

Calculations done by different experts suggest that vaccinating the entire population would cost the Union government somewhere between Rs 50,000-70,000 crore. The Union government had allocated Rs 35,000 crore for COVID-19 vaccination in the 2021-22 Budget.

Ratings agency India Ratings and Research Pvt Ltd’s (Ind-Ra) estimates show that vaccinating the entire population may cost Rs 67,190 crore, of which the Union government will incur Rs 20,870 crore and state governments together will incur Rs 46,320 crore. The total is only 0.36 per cent of the gross domestic product, a small amount, given the economic cost of the pandemic. The calculation was based on the assumption of Rs 400 per dose, with five per cent wastage.

Similarly, Indranil Mukhopadhyay, health economist at OP Jindal School of Public and Government Policy, said procuring vaccines for 1.3 billion Indians (Rs 500 per person) would have cost the government roughly Rs 56,000 crore.

“But if the central government is procuring at scale, the cost would be reduced. Then, a Rs 35,000 crore (budget) would also be good enough. If there is a shortfall, the PM CARES fund can be utilised,” he said – DTE



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Prez to unveil plan on 13 A

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SJB, SLPP rebels to boycott opening of new parliamentary session

By Saman Indrajith

The main Opposition party, the SJB, and the dissident SLPP MPs have decided to boycott the ceremonial opening of the Fourth session of the Ninth Parliament by President Ranil Wickremessinghe today.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe declared, on January 26, that he would brief Parliament on his decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.

MP Prof G.L. Peiris told the media that the FPC would boycott President Wickremesinghe’s speech, scheduled to take place today (08) when the Fourth session of the Parliament is ceremonially declared open.

Prof Peiris called the ceremonial opening of the new parliamentary session a mere show. “This is not acceptable. The people are fed up with policy statements. They need solutions instead,” he said.

Chief Opposition Whip and SJB Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, addressing a press conference, at the Opposition Leader’s office in Colombo yesterday said that his party members too would boycott today’s ceremony.

Kiriella said that President Wickremesinghe was now speaking of economic development in 2048. “This he is promising to do while doing everything possible under the sun and the moon to deprive people of their democratic right to an election. Therefore, we have decided not to attend President’s ceremonial treading of the government policy statement which is another example of this makeshift government’s predilection for waste of money and time.”

All Ceylon Tamil Congress, led by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, too, has decided to boycott today’s sessions.

TNA spokesman, Jaffna District MP MA Sumanthiran, said that his party would attend Parliament sessions today.

Political party sources said that TNA, JVP, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and All Ceylon Makkal Congress, in the Opposition ranks, however, would attend Parliament today.

Following the ceremonial opening of the day’s session, the President is scheduled to present the Statement of Government Policy in Parliament, at 10 am, according to the powers vested in him, under Article 33 of the Constitution.

A rehearsal for the ceremonial opening was held Monday at the Parliament premises where many, including students of Presidents’ Girls College, Kotte, were present.

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MSC America belonging to largest shipping line calls at ECT

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Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Master of the vessel, Capt. Matlin Alexander, exchanging plaques to mark the occasion (pic courtesy Ports, Shipping and Aviation Ministry

MSC America, the first container vessel under the business promotions programme to attract new lines to the Port of Colombo (POC), called at the East Container Terminal (ECT), owned by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority yesterday (07).

The latest programme to attract new shipping lines to the POC has been planned and implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Ports and Shipping, Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT), South Asia Gateway Terminals (SAGT), Ceylon Association of Shipping Agents (CASA) and Sri Lanka Association of Vessel Owners (SLAVO) to effectively address strategic business promotions as a fruitful mean to overcome the prevailing economic crisis. Attracting more new lines to the POC, increasing operational efficiency, expediting naval services, efficiency in logistics and warehouse management and container and cargo transportation are among the objectives.

MSC America that called at the ECT, owned by the POC, will hereafter operate a weekly call to Colombo.

On the first call, yesterday, the vessel carried 2300TEUs to Colombo and is expected to carry 2500TEUs on a weekly basis. The vessel, with a length of 334m and a 7.5m draft, sails under the flag of Panama. The port rotation includes Singapore and South Africa.


MSC is the largest global shipping line, with a fleet of more than 775 TEU vessels for container transportation around the world. The shipping line that maintains long term operations with the POC has a collaborative business relationship of more than 10 years with SLPA. Since 2015, it is the prime shipping line of the POC with an annual operational capacity of 2.0m TEUs. It performs about 900 calls per annum at the POC.

The deep draft vessels, owned by MSC, call at the CICT of the POC, whilst calling the SLPA controlled JCT and ECT with more than 1.0m TEUS per annum, becoming the main customer of the SLPA.

According to MSC Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd., the local agents for MSC shipping lines, another new three shipping lines, under INGWE West Bound service, East Africa Express service and East Med Service, will be calling this month at the POC.

To mark MSC America’s first call at the POC, a special plaque exchange was held at the ECT of the SLPA between Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva, and the Master of the vessel, Capt. Matlin Alexander. Chairman of SLPA, Keith D Bernard, and several representatives of MSC Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd., also attended the occasion.

Expressing views at the occasion Minister de Silva said:

“With the deep draft of the East Container Terminal, there is ample potential for mega vessels to call at the port. The remaining development process of the terminal is expedited with an investment of Rs.5.9 billion. Today, a mega vessel of the MSC has contributed for container operations via the Port of Colombo. Similarly four new services will be added to increase the capacity of the POC. That will increase our revenue. This has further strengthened the credibility placed by the international shipping community on the Port of Colombo.”

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Remembering Upali Wijewardene, the founder of Upali Group

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The Upali Group of Companies, its employees, and sales agents countrywide, have made arrangements to invoke blessings on its founder, Upali Wijewardene, who disappeared in his Learjet, 40 years ago. Bodhi Pooja, Pahan Pooja and an alms-giving will be held, in his memory, on Feb. 13 (Monday).

A special Bodhi Pooja will be held at the Kelani Raja Maha Viharaya, at 6 p.m. on February 13 with the blessings of Prof. Ven. Kollupitiye Mahinda Sangarakkhitha Thera, the Chief Incumbent of Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya.

Arrangements have been made to offer alms to the Maha Sangha at the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya, and scholarships to 10 needy children, from the Helena Wijewardene Maha Vidyalaya, Kelaniya.

Alms-giving to the inmates of the Home for the Elders at Mulgampola, Kandy, Bodhi Pooja Pinkama and Kavi Bana Pinkama, from 4.30 p.m. onwards, at the Ceylon Chocolates factory premises.

Bodhipooja, Pahan Pooja and Kavibana deshana will be held at Vidya Niketha Piriven Viharaya, Sapugoda Kamburupitiya.

The employees of Upali Consumer Products have arranged an alms-giving lunch at the ‘Children’s Home’ at Ja-Ela.

Founder’s Day Programme on February 13, 2023.

9.00 a.m. – Holy Mass at Mattakkuliya Church.

10.00 a.m. – Offering of Buddhapooja at the ‘Dhathumandiriya’.

10.30 a.m. – Scholarships to 10 needy children from Helena Wijewardene Maha Vidyalaya, Kelaniya.

11.30 a.m. – Alms-giving for the Maha Sangha at Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya.

12 noon – Providing lunch for the Children’s Home, Ja-Ela, organized by the employees of Upali Trading Co. Ltd.

5.15 p.m. – Offering Gilanpasapooja (permissible drinks) for Dhathumandiraya.

6.00 p.m. – Bodhi Pooja and Pahan Pooja at Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya.

All these pinkamas (meritorious acts) are organized by Upali Group employees and newspaper, Kandos/Delta and soap agents.

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