Five Opposition-ruled States — Rajasthan, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Kerala — have said the roll out of vaccination for 18-45 years category from May 1 as dictated by the Central government will be delayed, since the manufacturers have made it clear that they can negotiate future orders only after meeting their prior vaccine commitment to the Central government.
Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma said when the State government reached out to the Serum Institute, they were told that no vaccines are available till May 15.
“The Serum Institute told us that till May 15 they may not even be able to complete the prior order of the Central government,” Mr. Sharma said.
He was speaking during a press conference of Health Ministers from the Congress-ruled States, T. Singh Deo from Chhattisgarh, Balbir Singh Sidhu from Punjab and Banna Gupta from Jharkhand.
Mr. Sharma said the orders from the State governments will begin to be processed only after May 15. He asked, “If there are no vaccines, then how will we vaccinate those above 18-years of age?”
Mr. Singh Deo said the Narendra Modi government was playing an elaborate joke on everyone. “Currently we are producing close to seven crore vaccines both including Covisheild and Covaxin. If half of this goes to the Centre, then only 3.5 crore doses are available for the States to vaccinate those above 18 years. The 18-45 years category is at least 35-40% of our population. Just 3.5 crore doses for them... this is a joke!” he said. He said it is not only the differential rates. The fact is that these manufacturers do not have raw material too for production of vaccines
He said the Union government is trying to misguide the people and transferring the onus on the States. He said the Congress-ruled States are not alone in this predicament. “The Assam government was told that vaccines will be available only in a month’s time. So where is the question of unrolling the vaccines for the 18-45 group from May 1 onwards?”
Mr. Gupta said the Centre, before announcing the third phase of vaccine strategy, should have figured out the supply chain. “Are we going to make the vaccines ourselves?”
The situation in Punjab, Mr. Sidhu said, is already very critical. “We are practically hand to mouth.” The State has only been given 34 lakh doses, out of which 30 lakh have already been spent. “We only have four lakh doses right now.” He said because of limited supply, the State has not been able to expand the vaccine programme.
Kerala is also facing a similar situation. With close to four lakh doses remaining in stock, it has already started rationing, limiting the number of sites and the shots that can be delivered at every site. The State, which was administering over 2.5 to 3 lakh doses per day, could administer only around 60,000 doses on Sunday because of the dwindling supplies.
Though registration for the vaccination of those in the 18-45 years age group is being opened up on May 1, the State has already made it clear that vaccinations for this group can be conducted only when more stocks are available.
The State has also got a similar reply from the manufacturers — that fresh supplies will be made only after the doses contracted for the Centre are produced.
The Health Ministers from the four States said the Centre should have thought through the supply lines, quota for each State, manufacturing capacities and other modalities before opening up the vaccines for all above the age of 18-years.
They rued that the Centre is already meting out step motherly treatment to the Opposition-ruled States in terms of differential pricing of the vaccines, release of critical medicines like Remdesivir and oxygen supply.
Citing the example from Rajasthan, Mr. Sharma said with 1.37 lakh active cases the State’s quota of oxygen is only 140 MT, while Gujarat with a little over one lakh active cases has a quota of over 900 MT. Similar problems arose in the case of Remdesivar. “Our order was cancelled at the last minute. Then the Centre decided to give us Remdesivar according to their whims. We got 26,000 doses while our neighbour Gujarat got one lakh doses.” This is not the time to work on political lines, he said.
Mocking the BJP, Mr. Gupta said a party that claims Kashmir to Kanyakumari is one country suddenly is now working on parochial lines.
(With inputs from our Kerala bureau)