United Nations has recommended “promotion for healthy life and well being of all in its 3rd Sustainable Goal.” Covid-19 pandemic has threatened the very existence of the weak and the vulnerable. Effective vaccination is one answer to this problem. Questions like- Should the vaccine be made free? Or should it be subsidised to be made affordable? is a primary debate. Ending this debate atleast for the first round of vaccination for the frontline workers, the Union Government has decided to bear the costs of the first phase of vaccination. However this decision comes with a baggage.
The standard rule of governance is one who spends also controls. The usual practice is, the authority which spends also decides the manner in which delivery has to be done. In the present scenario, the healthcare and frontline workers are to be given the free vaccine. As per the Schedule 7 of the Indian Constitution, health workers, sanitation workers and the police force are state government employees, thus the states should decide the manner in which eligibility is decided. If the powers of deciding the eligibility goes to the centre then the states might not get the say in the matter and will be required to follow the instructions of the Union Government. A federal tussle on amount of vaccination provided to states can also become a contentious issue. All these problems will arise if the Centre is the sole implementor of the vaccine delivery.
The other side of the story is, this pandemic has affected the whole country and not just few states. Vaccine distribution though a topic which is strictly related to governance has also been unfortunately politicised. Any obstacles which is federal in nature only due to mere political differences between the people sitting in power in the central government and the state government will be a major impediment in delivery of vaccine. Issues of corruption, hoarding of vaccines, vaccine theft and other issues will also require a very strict protocol which must be uniform through all the country. Thus a Central ‘high hand’ is preferred when such crucial service has to be provided to the people who risk their lives on a daily basis.