No stocks, can't vaccinate all from May-1, say four states
Four states, ruled by the Opposition, have claimed they won't be able to vaccinate the entire population from May 1 as they don't have enough doses. Earlier, the Centre allowed everyone aged 18 and above to be inoculated from May 1, a decision that was clearly driven by the recent spike in coronavirus cases. The second wave has infected 3,52,991 people in the last 24 hours alone.
Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma disclosed that the state contacted the Serum Institute of India (SII), which is manufacturing millions of doses of Covishield, only to be told that it will have to wait till May 15. SII apparently told it has to first deliver orders placed by the Centre. "If the states want to procure vaccines directly, what is the process?" he asked.
Sharma said the Centre should direct SII and Bharat Biotech, the manufacturer of COVAXIN, to supply a fixed number of doses to the states. "The question before us is, we have 3.13 crore people in the 18-45 age group; how will we vaccinate them? We are ready to pay but the rates should be uniform," he said in a press conference.
The press conference was also attended by TS Singh Deo, Balbir Singh Sidhu, and Banna Gupta — Sharma's counterparts from Chhattisgarh, Punjab, and Jharkhand. The Congress heads governments in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Punjab, and is a part of the coalition in Jharkhand. All four health ministers implied they are ready to widen the vaccination drive's net, but the manufacturers don't have doses.
Sidhu accused the Centre of misguiding the country by opening up vaccination when there aren't enough doses. "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'," he said. He disclosed that all of them were given the same response by vaccine manufacturers — wait till May 15.
Deo cited the example of Assam, which is governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). When Assam tried placing orders, it was told it would get doses after a month, Deo claimed. And Gupta said, "We want to vaccinate, but will we make vaccines in our homes?" Sharma said Rajasthan has eight lakh doses left and Sidhu informed that Punjab has four lakh doses.
Gupta accused the Centre of hijacking the production capacity of manufacturers and striking a deal at 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," Gupta said. Last week, SII said it will sell Covishield at Rs. 400/dose to states and Rs. 600/dose to private facilities.