Updated: July 21, 2021 8:39:57 am
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Tuesday told Rajya Sabha that India will be the first country to develop a DNA-based Covid-19 vaccine even as other manufactures are steadily ramping up production.
“It is a matter of great pride for us that our scientists will be the first to develop a DNA vaccine,” the minister said, referring to Zydus Cadila, which has applied for emergency use authorisation of its DNA vaccine.
Mandaviya said while Serum Institute of India has begun providing 11-12 crore doses of Covishied vaccine every month, Biological E is conducting third-phase trial of its vaccine, which is expected to come in the market by September-October with 7.5 crore doses.
Responding to criticism from the Opposition that Covid deaths have been under-reported, Mandaviya said the Centre has no role in recording the figures. “Why would we hide it? States register cases and record deaths. Is there a reason for them to do hide? It is not like there is a penalty for rising cases or deaths,” he said.
On vaccine shortage in several states, Mandaviya said, “There are some states which currently have 15-20 lakh vaccine doses and are still asking the Centre to increase the pace of vaccination.”
“We needed to build the infrastructure…to ensure we have PPT kits, N-95 masks for our medical practitioners to fight the pandemic,” he said, responding to questions raised on the Centre’s decision to impose a nationwide lockdown in March 2020.
On ensuring adequate medical oxygen in preparation for the next surge of Covid cases, he told the House that 1,573 oxygen plants have been planned in hospitals across the country. Of these, 316 have been commissioned so far and the rest will start operations by August-end, he added.
Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Puri criticised the Opposition for spreading vaccine hesitancy by questioning efficacy of vaccines developed in India. “Are they making a case for importing vaccines,” he asked.
Puri also said it was on the request of some chief ministers that states were allowed to procure vaccines, and when they could not procure, the Centre took over the task again.
BJP MP Swapan Dasgupta said the amount of relief the government has given to people was considerable. “Covid is a long haul and lockdown is only a temporary measure. We have to try and restore livelihood of people,” he said.
Dasgupta also criticised some states for not cooperating enough with the Centre. “Health is a state subject but the state has to handle the pandemic and needs the cooperation of the Centre,” he said. “We need that mutual cooperation, which is not there.”
Earlier, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjuna Kharge said the government’s Covid-19 death toll figure of 4-5 lakh is “false” and conservative, and claimed that average number of deaths cannot be less than 52.4 lakh
Kharge also accused the government of giving very little notice to people on lockdown. “Like demonetisation, the announcement was made by the PM at 8 pm — that no trains will run from the next day. The government has to take responsibility for the loss of livelihood and sufferings of migrant workers…”
Kharge also waved photographs of dead bodies buried along the banks of the Ganga river in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh while criticising the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Congress leader Anand Sharma said, “We must not quarrel over the numbers. We must not get into hairsplitting that I did this and you did that…. It is important for us reflect on the social and economic consequences, including black-marketing of life-saving drugs. How do we ensure that when the next wave comes we are prepared to tackle these issues?”
Sharma also raised the issue of mental health crisis triggered by the pandemic and the digital divide for children learning virtually.
DMK’s Tiruchi Siva alleged that BJP-ruled state are getting more vaccine doses compared to Opposition states. “Why is there a disparity? Let it be uniform. If you are giving doses as per proportion of population, then Tamil Nadu should also get an equal share,” he said.
RJD MP Manoj Jha also raised the issue of undercounting of Covid deaths and the oxygen crisis during the second wave. “There would not be a single individual in this country — in this House, and outside — who has not lost someone they knew,” Jha said.
Trinamool MP Dr Santanu Sen criticised holding an eight-phase election in West Bengal during the pandemic and said the long time-line of polls significantly increased Covid-19 cases in the state.
AIADMK MP Thambidurai called for more awareness on vaccination and said the government must ensure clear guidelines when a person tested positive for Covid-19 can take the vaccine.
TDP member Ravindra Kumar requested the Centre to frame a policy to award compensation to families of those who died of Covid-19.
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