Free vaccine and for all should be government’s policy, Congress tells Centre

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala addresses the media on November 29, 2020. Photo: Twitter/@rssurjewala  

Free vaccine and vaccine for all should be the policy of the Narendra Modi government, the Congress said on Sunday as the party asked it to spell out its distribution policy.

At a press conference a day after the vaccination drive was rolled out, Congress general secretary Randeep Surjewala said though the Centre talked about covering three crore people in the first phase, it is yet to clarify when the remaining population will get the vaccines. And whether they will get it for free, especially the underprivileged and the poor.

“Is the government not aware that 81.35 crore people are eligible for subsidised ration under the Food Security Act? Will the SC, ST, BC, OBC, BPL, APL, the poor and the underprivileged get the vaccine for free or not? If yes, what is the roll-out plan and by when will the government ensure free vaccination,” Mr. Surjewala asked.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP government need to answer...Who will get free corona vaccine? How many people will get it? Where will you get free corona vaccine?”

Asked if MPs should be given vaccine shots ahead of the Budget session that starts on January 29, he said, “The Indian National Congress has no opinion in the matter but may I just point out, there will always be some doubts that will be raised on the efficacy and the side effects and that’s why world over leaders, Prime Ministers, Presidents, Union Ministers have come forward to get the first shot…”

The chief spokesperson of the Congress questioned the pricing of the Covaxin and the Covishield and asked why the government has not put them in the National List of Essential Medicines.

The Congress general secretary asked why the government should pay ₹95 more to the Bharat Biotech for a vaccine developed with the expertise and experience of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) scientists.

He also objected to the Serum Institute’s reported decision to sell the vaccine in the open market for ₹1,000 when it is selling it for ₹200 to the government.

“While India stands united in providing immunisation against the coronavirus to our frontline warriors — doctors, health workers, police personnel and others — let’s remember that vaccinations are an important public service and not a political or business opportunity,” he said.

Expressing gratitude to the scientific community, former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram tweeted, “If we win this battle, the entire credit should go to the scientists and researchers around the world, including India. Let us salute our scientists and pledge to promote science and develop a scientific temper.”

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 2:32:52 AM |

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