UPI prepaid vouchers for COVID-19 vaccinations are scheduled for launch on July 15 following which sponsors would be able to buy these vouchers for beneficiaries to pay for their vaccine jab, according to an office memo issued by the National Health Authority.
This indicates that the central government continues to work at avoiding free vaccinations for all, a demand that has been made, and promised by many state governments.
In its office memo issued on Tuesday, the National Health Authority (NHA) said, “all the PMJAY [Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana] empanelled hospitals must enable themselves for acceptance of UPI prepaid voucher”. Entrackr has seen a copy of the NHA’s memo.
The vouchers will allow Individuals to buy these and share them with other potential beneficiaries who can show them at paid vaccination centres to pay for the jabs.
“However, it may be noted that these prepaid vouchers will not entail any kind of priority in availing the vaccination services,” the NHA’s CEO Vipul Aggarwal said in the memo.
Currently, eight banks have been authorised to issue these prepaid vouchers which include the State Bank of India, Axis Bank, Indusind Bank, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Bank of Baroda. Punjab National Bank, and BhartPe (as an aggregator).
The UPI prepaid voucher will only be issued in a digital QR code or SMS String, and can be used by beneficiaries even if they don’t have a bank account or are not UPI users.
According to a separate circular issued by the NPCI earlier in July, a maximum of Rs 10,000 worth of prepaid vouchers can be obtained by the sponsor and upto 10 UPI prepaid vouchers can be issued on a single mobile number for COVID-19 and related health care services.
With most people holding out for free vaccinations, even as 25% of vaccinations have been reserved for paid channels, i.e., private hospitals, the idea here might be to nudge more firms and individuals towards paid options, especially when free centres regularly run out of vaccines, as is the case in large cities like Delhi.
Combined with increasing restrictions and rules like inter-state travel only for people with both doses, it should be interesting to see how well this is received by the ‘market’.