Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Sunday hit out at the Centre for having exported Covid-19 vaccines at a time when they were desperately needed in the country.
Referring to a report in The Indian Express, which said that under the Centre’s Vaccine Maitri programme, more than 6.6 crore doses of Covid vaccines — almost all Covishield — were sent to 93 countries, Sisodia said that India needed to learn from the international community and first think about its own citizens.
“Despite people falling sick, running around to get hospital beds and oxygen, and dying, we are not being able to save our own people. This has been brought forth by a report in The Indian Express today. The report says that when people in the country were struggling to find beds, falling sick and dying, the Centre was exporting vaccines,” Sisodia said.
“When I read this report, I checked the Government of India website and went through these figures. There is a list of 93 countries that we sold vaccines to in the last three months. 6.5 crore doses were sent to citizens of other countries. This was a big blunder. When it was hoped that the Centre would manage Covid, they were busy in image management,” he said.
The Indian Express reported on Sunday that analysis of the Covid burden of all 93 recipient countries from January to last week showed that right through the Vaccine Maitri initiative, most of them were better off than India in terms of Covid cases and deaths per lakh population. And yet, over 60% of all exports went to these countries.
The stockpile sent to other countries, The Indian Express reported, was enough to support about 30 days of vaccination nationwide at last week’s inoculation rate — and at two doses, could cover the entire adult population of Delhi and Mumbai.
The report also said that shortage of vaccines and mounting case loads have forced India to drastically cut down exports. From over 6.4 crore doses in the nine weeks since January 20, the supply overseas fell to just 18 lakh shots in April.
Sisodia also demanded that all vaccines made in the country should henceforth be given to citizens.
“Vaccines that are being produced in the country now should be given to the people of the country and should not be exported… Please learn from the international community. America, Canada, and European countries prioritised their citizens and did not export any vaccines. Even France, which sent 1 lakh doses to other countries, did so only in April, and after ensuring that they had enough doses for their citizens,” he said.
The Delhi government has written to the Centre on several occasions, when vaccination was available only to those above the age of 45, asking that jabs be opened up to all age groups.
Sisodia said that he knew it would be argued that India had to export the vaccine doses as part of international treaties, but asked the government to follow the example of other countries.
“I am not saying that we shouldn’t help others, but not at the cost of your own citizens. Many people will say we have international treaties to honour, but other countries also are part of these treaties. Did America, Canada, or other European nations give vaccines to other countries? No, they prioritised their citizens… In Delhi, we have only got 5.5 lakh vaccines so far for people in the 18-44 age group. Are the lives of our citizens not important?” he said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said on Saturday that Delhi had vaccines for only 5-6 days, and had sought the intervention of the Centre to get more doses. He wrote to Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday seeking his help.