India — The Covid-19 vaccination centres in Delhi government facilities are likely to continue with the free jabs even after the drive opens up for everyone, irrespective of their age or health comorbidities, a senior government official said on Sunday.
Appropriate allocation of funds in this regard will be made in the upcoming Delhi budget that is likely to be presented this week, he added .
The budget session of the Delhi government starts on Monday and it is scheduled to continue till March 16. HT has learnt that the economic survey and outcome budget 2020-21 is likely to be tabled on Monday, while the 2021-22 state budget – the seventh by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) – will be tabled on Tuesday.
The Delhi government had proposed a Rs.65,000 crore budget outlay for 2020-21, the highest till date and around 8.33% higher than the previous financial year’s expenditure. The total outlay in the AAP government’s first budget, presented in 2015-16, was Rs.41,500 crore.
In the 2021-22 budget, the government is likely to further increase the total outlay, said the senior government official.
This will be the first budget by the state government after the Covid-19 pandemic struck the Capital, with the infection and the consequent nationwide lockdown severely denting the state government’s revenue collection by at least 42%, finance department officials said.
The 2020-21 budget had been tabled on March 23, even as Delhi planned a week-long lockdown, and plans for a nation-wide lockdown loomed.
“Covid-19 vaccines will remain free for all in the government centres. Funds for the same will be allocated in the budget in this regard,” said the first government official.
Currently, Delhi has 402 vaccine centres spread across 192 locations. Of the total locations – 136 are in private hospitals and 56 are in government hospitals. The drive is currently open for health workers, front line workers, people aged over 60 years and people aged between 45 and 59 years with specific comorbidities as listed by the Central government. While the inoculation drive was launched across India on January 16, vaccine shots for the last two groups only started on March 1. Delhi, so far, has administered the first dose of Covid-19 vaccines to 75,673 people aged over 60 years and 11,095 shots to people with comorbidities aged between 45 and 59 years , government data showed.
In a report published in HT on Wednesday, health minister Satyendar Jain said the government would take two to three months to cover the first dose for these groups. While there are 2.1 million people aged over 60 years in Delhi, government data showed, there is still no clear estimate of people aged 45-59 years with comorbidities from the Central government’s list.
Dr K Srinath Reddy, president of Public Health Foundation of India, said: “Extensive vaccine coverage is needed even for persons below 60 years, because of a high prevalence of comorbidities in younger age groups. Many people with those health conditions are unaware of them, especially in the lower socio-economic groups. Both to protect such people and to slow down the transmission, vaccines have to be administered free of cost in government hospitals.”
DELHI’S BUDGET THEME
The theme of the upcoming budget of the Delhi government will be “patriotism” and there is likely to be an allocation of funds for a series of events to he held across the city over a span of 75 weeks – starting this Thursday with a programme in Connaught Place – to celebrate 75 years of independence in India in August next year and installing national flags across the city, said the senior government official.
The senior official said that the upcoming budget is also likely to have a proposal for setting up a new Sainik school in Delhi, apart from allocation of funds for Delhi’s own state education board which chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had announced on Saturday.