The US government is paying for the vaccine, making it free at the point of service to all US residents – mind you residents not just citizens. That includes students, those working there on different kinds of, immigrants, etc.
Similarly, the United Kingdom has made vaccination universal under its National health Scheme. In Canada too similarly vaccinations will be free for all residents. (I have not confirmed so far, but I think similar is the policy for the EU).
Even countries in the Gulf like the UAE, Saudi Arabia have universal vaccination programs, for their residents, that include not just citizens but expatriate workers (so millions of Indians working in Gulf countries are getting free vaccines). They are not manufacturing vaccines but imported from China, Russia, America, and other countries.
China, Russia, Turkey, and several other countries have similar universal vaccination programs.
Now, come to our neighbours. So far Bangladesh received vaccine only from India that they have distributed for free to their citizens. Now that India is not sending – and unlikely they will in near future – BD has signed a deal with the Russian vaccine makers to produce Sputnik V locally. The government will buy those vaccines and give them to their citizens for free.
Even in Pakistan people are getting free vaccines.
Whatever little vaccines Afghanistan received so far, they have distributed it to their citizens for free.
In India, on the other hand, the central government has approved a dual policy, where they will procure some vaccines gradually apparently for poor and front line workers. Meanwhile, states have been burdened to buy vaccines for most of their people at much higher rates – higher than even rich countries like the USA, UK, etc are paying. Simultaneously vaccines at very high costs will be available for those who can afford them at private hospitals.
You can very well understand who will get vaccines first in this three-tier system? It seems our policymakers do not even understand the basics of vaccination and pandemics. Unless a sizeable population is vaccinated you won’t get her immunity. That can happen only if vaccines are free.
Private companies have been given free hand to turn this crisis into “super profit” – Adar Poonawala word, not mine – for them by the central government while millions of Indians are going through a crisis.
(Dr M Reyaz is an assistant professor at Aliah University, Kolkata. He tweets at @journalistreyaz)