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Four Opposition states say no stocks, can’t begin vaccination for all on May 1

Congress-ruled Rajasthan said it had been told by the Serum Institute of India (SII), which manufactures Covishield, that it would not be able to supply doses before May 15.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi |
Updated: April 26, 2021 7:28:36 am
Recently, vaccination was suspended across several centres in Mumbai due to shortage in supply. (Express Photo: Pradip Das)

Five days before vaccinations are scheduled to be opened up to everyone of age 18 and older, four Opposition ruled states on Sunday said they would not be able to begin the drive on May 1 because they did not have enough vaccines.

Congress-ruled Rajasthan said it had been told by the Serum Institute of India (SII), which manufactures Covishield, that it would not be able to supply doses before May 15.

“We were told to speak to Serum Institute. Their feedback was that the orders that they have got from the central government…they will need time till May 15 to supply those orders. So they are not in a position to give the vaccine to us. So the question is, if the states want to procure vaccines directly, what is the process? This the central government should decide. The question before us is, we have 3.13 crore people in the 18-45 age group; how will we vaccinate them?” Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma said.

Sharma said the central government should tell SII and Bharat Biotech, which manufactures Covaxin, that they should supply “this much number of doses” to the states.

“We are ready to pay but the rates should be uniform,” Sharma said at a press conference that he addressed along with his counterparts from Chhattisgarh, Punjab, and Jharkhand. “This the central government should address.”

The Congress heads governments in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Punjab, and shares power with the JMM in Jharkhand.

Chhattisgarh Health Minister T S Singh Deo and Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu seconded Sharma.

Deo said he had heard that Assam had tried to place orders for vaccines, but was told that they would get them after a month. All four Health Ministers said they were prepared for the next phase of vaccinations from May 1, but the manufacturers had expressed inability to provide the doses.

“There is no way vaccination can be given if the vaccine is not available. The situation is very clear. The Centre is saying that vaccinations have been opened to all…but vaccines are not available. Then the entire nation is being misguided. In a way, an attempt is being made to put the burden on the states and discredit them… saying see, ‘we have opened the vaccinations’,” Sidhu said.

“All of us are being given the same reply, that there is booking till May 15… Supply would start after that,” he said.

Jharkhand Health Minister Banna Gupta said: “We want to vaccinate, but will we make vaccines in our homes?”

Meanwhile, the Punjab government in a statement said that Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh had directed the Health Department to order 30 lakh Covishield doses for vaccination of the 18-45 age group.

However, the statement said, “as per information provided by the Central Government for delivery of vaccines for 18-45 age group is not expected before May 15”.

All the four states also accused the central government of discrimination in supplying oxygen and the antiviral drug remdesivir, used in the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

Sharma said the situation was becoming grave in Rajasthan, where the infection had spread to around 30 per cent of villages. The recovery rate has gone down from 98.60 per cent to 73.60 per cent, he said; the death rate, however, remains low at 0.70 per cent.

Sharma said Rajasthan has 8 lakh doses of vaccines left; Sidhu said Punjab has 4 lakh doses. Jharkhand’s Gupta said the state had wanted to procure remdesivir from Bangladesh, but the central government had not given clearance for imports.

“We are being meted out step-motherly treatment. The Centre should provide the vaccine and essential life-saving medicines,” Sidhu said.

Gupta alleged that the Centre had hijacked the production capacity of manufacturers, and struck a deal for Rs 150 per dose. “The government that talks of one constitution, one tax, is now trying to derive benefits out of the pandemic through differential pricing of vaccines,” he said.

The Congress central leadership on Sunday alleged that the Narendra Modi government had introduced the “most discriminatory and insensitive vaccination policy” in the world, and accused it of permitting “brazen profiteering” in vaccination.

“The Modi Government’s vaccination policy has abandoned India’s youth between the ages of 18-45 years by clearly stating that the Government of India takes no responsibility for their vaccination. They have to get themselves vaccinated or the onus lies upon the state governments to do so from their own resources,” Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said.

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