In an interview with ET Now, Rajiv Kumar, the vice-chairman of the NITI Aayog, shares his opinion on the Covid situation, vaccines, and the decision of providing vaccination for all above 18 years of age. Upon ET Now's asking, Mr. Rajiv Kumar expressed his thoughts on the move to open up vaccination for all above 18 years of age. He said that it is a very big step forward, given the current situation and since the government has made arrangements for more than adequate supplies of the vaccines by allowing imports, by obtaining extra capacity for Sputnik, and also providing grants to the domestic producers to more than quadruple their capacities. He added that it is important to vaccinate a large population of the country as quickly as possible. Also, stating that there are more than 44,000 vaccination stations in the country that work at full capacity, he reassuringly said that we could soon overcome the pandemic. Mr. Rajiv Kumar also mentioned a statement made by National Health Authority Chairman Ram Sewak Sharma, who said that the technical backbone is now in place. Therefore, the load of the extra vaccination can be taken, going forward. ET Now questioned him further about how much will the money provided to Serum Institute and Bharat Bio help in ramping up the vaccine capabilities. Mr. Rajiv Kumar answered, saying that he is not fully conversant with the timeframe. However, money will not be a problem. It is more a matter of weeks rather than months for extra production coming online, he added. The vice-chairman of the NITI Aayog explained that he had heard that it would be about two months or two to three months that Bharat Biotech would really ramp up its capacity in a significant way. Serum Institute would be able to do that as well. He believes that in the next eight to 12 weeks, extra supplies from domestic producers should be coming through. In the meanwhile, given the approval for importing vaccines, a quick ramp-up of vaccine supply can be expected. Lastly ET Now inquired about striking a balance between the two. Where on one hand, there is a need to get vaccines to everyone, including those who cannot pay, and on the other, the need to ensure producers who have taken huge risks so that they do not incur losses. Mr. Rajiv Kumar explained, there is no clear-cut answer at present, but it is necessary to balance the two needs. The government has now given flexibility. He believes that it is a big change and a big step forward.
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