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All eyes on Health Minister Mandaviya as fast-tracking vaccinations would be key to post budget growth

Covid 19 vaccination drive key for economic growth

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman carved out a Rs 39,45 lakh crore Union Budget for the financial year 2022-23 but all eyes are on Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya. India’s vaccination pogramme, which started on January 16, 2021, needs to be further pushed to enable every sector of the economy to open up, leaders of India Inc said. While the Union Budget has focused on growth amid the pandemic, India must press the pedal on the inoculation exercise so that its entire population at the earliest.

More than 166 crore of people have been vaccinated so far. As many as 71 crore people – 51.4 per cent –have received both the shots.

“The inoculation programme must be opened up for all..the government needs to work towards removing the eligibility criteria and open it for all age groups and sections of the society. Economic growth depends on the vaccination drive. We have already lost about two years, now we need to be in a position where the economy can be fully opened up,” Deepak Sood, secretary general, Assocham, told India Narrative. “Pushing growth is of utmost priority as we come out of the pandemic,” he said.

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Besides opening up the vaccination drive for the children, the government has already started the booster programme.

BJP’s spokesperson on economic affairs, Gopal Krishna Agarwal said that the programme is going on as per schedule. “The last mile connectivity is also the responsibility of the state governments. The states also need to do their bit in mobilising people and ensure that they are vaccinated,” he said.

Mandaviya’s vaccination exercise is also being closely watched by global investors.

“We are waiting for India to come out of the pandemic, several South Korean companies are eyeing to invest in India. But the plans have been put on hold due to the Covid 19 wave,” a South Korean business head who did not wish to be identified, said.

Meanwhile, analysts said that despite the severe Omicron wave in January, India’s growth engines have not been dented. The Union Budget has projected a growth rate of 9.2 per cent for the current financial year. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has also increased capital expenditure by 35 per cent for 2022-23 period to spur infrastructure growth and jobs.

“The increase in capex that is expected to push the critical infrastructure sector will create jobs and thereby demand but above all we need to focus on the vaccination drive,” Sood said.  

The Centre has already asked state governments to expedite the second dose vaccination coverage for those in age bracket of 15 to 18.

Rajesh Bhushan, Union Health Secretary in a letter to the states and union territories underlined the need for adhere to the Covid vaccination schedule for full protection. "It is important that the coverage of second dose among adolescents is reviewed daily at your level at state and UTs and similar review is undertaken at district level as well", the letter said.