AS MORE states joined the chorus for free universal vaccination by the Union government, the demand gained political momentum Wednesday with the Kerala Assembly unanimously passing a resolution that the Centre should make vaccines available free of cost to all states in a time-bound manner.
The resolution moved by Kerala Health Minister Veena George said the most suitable preventive step against the pandemic was universal vaccination, but asking states to procure vaccines from the open market was “highly objectionable”.
“The Centre should float a global tender to procure vaccines for the entire country. The financial gains of such a step will not be small,” the resolution said. On Tuesday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had written to Chief Ministers of 11 non-BJP states urging all to push the Centre for ensuring free universal vaccination.
Describing ICMR’s assertion the entire country would be vaccinated by December as a “hoax”, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, “BJP always does this type of political propaganda. Before the Bihar Assembly election, they said people will be vaccinated free, but did nothing after the election. If you don’t have commitment, you raise the issue to satisfy people temporarily. But a temporary solution is not the solution, it’s pollution.”
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik too wrote to CMs of all states on centralised procurement of vaccines by the Union government, rather than by individual states. “Many states have floated global tenders… However, it is quite clear that the global vaccine manufacturers are looking forward to the Union Government for the clearances and assurances. They are unwilling to get into supply contracts with the state governments. While the domestic vaccine manufacturers are having supply constraints and are not able to commit required supplies,” he said in the letter.
Banerjee said she had received Patnaik’s letter. “Not only him, Kerala CM and Delhi CM also contacted me. They are also saying the Central government should procure vaccines. I already said, the Central Government should not only procure vaccines but also distribute it to states for free,” she said.
Earlier, in an interview to The Indian Express, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren had said his state would go bankrupt if it had to provide vaccines free for all its citizens. Citing Mizoram and other northeastern states’ “stressed economic resources”, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga Monday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting the Centre to procure vaccines and distribute them to states, free of cost.
Recently, in an Idea Exchange interaction with The Indian Express, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the Centre’s “perfect policy was changed” due to pressure from some states. He also said the CMs of states should speak with the Central government and decide together that the Centre should do it. —(With inputs from ENS, Thiruvananthapuram, Bhubaneswar, Kolkata, Guwahati)