Centre shirks responsibility, wants states, companies to import vaccines: Report
As vaccinations emerge as India's biggest hope against a disastrous second coronavirus wave, a Reuters report has claimed that the federal government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, would not import foreign-made vaccines, but wants states and companies to do so. Two officials in the know said the Centre would be promoting domestic manufacturers by purchasing doses from them. Here are more details.
India had started its vaccination drive on January 16 with Covishield and COVAXIN. The former is being produced by Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) while Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech has developed the latter. This month after the daily caseload soared, the government decided to fast-track approvals of foreign-made doses. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson were asked to apply for permission.
While the decision of fast-tracking approvals was lauded, the Reuters report has highlighted that the Centre wants states and companies to strike deals with these manufacturers. "The situation is desperate," one of the officials said, adding that while the federal government will allow imports it "will not buy." This would further delay the vaccine procurement, at a time when infections aren't slowing down.
The second official concurred by saying, "I don't think the government will be buying foreign vaccines." Earlier, Health Minister Rajesh Tope had said that Maharashtra would import vaccines to meet the demand. "There will be no dearth of the money for the vaccine, as we have decided to use the development funds to procure vaccine stock," Tope had said.
While Maharashtra is keeping this option open, poorer states don't have the means to do so. In fact, several states have spoken about the scarcity of Indian-made doses. The health ministers of Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Punjab recently held a press conference, announcing that they might not be able to vaccinate everyone above 18 from May 1 as they are running low on vials.
Notably, PM Modi's government is already under fire for sending millions of doses abroad when the Indian population needed them. This new development is going to garner more criticism. As per the Health Ministry, India has so far inoculated 14,19,11,223 people. Meanwhile, coronavirus is ripping the country apart with 3.53 lakh new coronavirus infections being reported for the sixth straight day today.