Fours states ruled by the Congress and its allies Sunday accused the Centre of “hijacking” vaccine stocks from manufacturers, and expressed doubts they would be able to launch the inoculation drive to cover those between 18-45 years of age from May 1. They also accused the Centre of meting out “step-motherly” treatment to them, and urged the Union government to provide them free vaccine doses to vaccinate all adults.
Addressing a virtual joint press conference, the health ministers of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Jharkhand (ruled by Congress-JMM alliance) asked as to how they will vaccinate all adults when the Centre has already “taken away the stocks” and shots are not available to them. They said they are prepared for the next phase of vaccination drive from May 1, but the manufacturers have expressed inability to provide them vaccine shots.
“How do we vaccinate adults of 18-45 years as Serum Institute has said they will not be able to provide vaccine till May 15,” Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma said. “We have the capacity, but not the vaccine,”he said. “States should get the supplies. The Government of India should provide vaccine as per their requirements.” The success of the drive depends on availability of shots, he said.
Sharma said, “Our demand is that the Centre fully fund the vaccine. How can we fund it from our budget? No provision has been made by us in the budget.” Chhattisgarh Health Minister T S Singh Deo said, “There is no way shots can be administered if the vaccine is not available. How will we provide vaccination? We are ready to vaccinate, provided we have the vaccines.” He also alleged politics is being played on vaccination the way prime minister’s photo is put on the certificate of vaccination. “The country is being misguided. The Centre has made a joke of this,” he said. Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said, “We are being meted out step-motherly treatment. The Centre should provide the vaccine and essential life-saving medicines.” “If the Centre does not support us, how can we roll out the vaccination drive? We are only hand-to-mouth on vaccines. The Centre should allot the vaccine and provide it to us,” Sidhu said.
Jharkhand Health Minister Banna Gupta alleged the prime minister is trying to derive political advantage even during this raging pandemic. “Step-motherly treatment is being meted out to Congress-ruled states like us. The prime minister is politicising everything and we have to fight a dual battle of saving people from coronavirus and fighting politics,” he said.
“The Centre has hijacked their production capacity (manufacturers’) and struck a deal for Rs 150 per dose. The government that talks of one constitution, one tax, are now trying to derive benefits out of pandemic by different pricing of vaccines,” he said. “How will we launch (the next phase of vaccination drive), when vaccine makers do not have vaccines, (and) how will they provide us supplies. People will ask us to vaccinate, we have set up vaccination centres,” he said, adding the Centre should allow them to purchase Remdesivir from Bangladesh, which is not being allowed.
“On one side, we are being bound, on the other hand, an impression is being created that there is decentralisation of power to states,” he alleged. The Centre last Monday announced its liberalised vaccination policy, making all adults eligible for Covid19 vaccine from May 1 and has asked states to procure vaccines from makers of their own.