New Delhi: With hopes of a COVID vaccine in the near future, the Union government has set aside about Rs 500 billion ($7 billion) to distribute the vaccination at the cheapest possible price in the world’s second-most populous after China, a report said on Thursday. Also Read - How Are States Preparing to Distribute Coronavirus Vaccine Once it Arrives in India? Explained.

With an estimate of six to seven dollars per person, the Narendra Modi administration has already provisioned money for the current financial year and the government has said that there will be no shortage of funds in this regard, a Bloomberg report stated. Also Read - India's Coronvirus Caseload Surges to 92.66 Lakh With Over 44,000 New Cases in Past 24 Hrs

“I doubt that the marginal cost of a vaccine would be anything close to that number at the volumes that India will purchase. There’s one large buyer — India — and one large seller, potentially,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, as quoted by Bloomberg. Also Read - Six Pakistan Cricketers Test Positive For COVID-19, Training Put on Hold; NZC Says Protocol Breach by Visitors

“A lot will come down to negotiations and the government has a lot more power in these situations,” Ramanan said.

Notably, Adar Poonawalla of the Serum Institute of India, which has been conducting various vaccine trials to find a cure for coronavirus infection, claimed that the government will need around Rs 80,000 crore (Rs 800 billion) to ensure the vaccine is distributed to people at every nook and corner of the country.

Meanwhile, the government is formulating a database as to how it will distribute the vaccine once it is developed.

The first shot of COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be received by frontline health workers who are estimated to be around 20 Lakh across the country.

These frontline healthcare workers include ANM (auxiliary nurse midwife) and ASHA (accredited social health activist) workers, medical officers, allopathic doctors, including MBBS and post-graduates amongst others.

Meanwhile, a government-back panel tasked with providing projections has said that as high as 50 per cent of Indians may be infected with Covid-19 by February 2021.

The committee’s estimate for the current spread of coronavirus is much higher than the government’s serosurveys, which cites only around 14 per cent of the Indian population infected.