COVID-19: Vaccine shortage triggers political blame game in Kerala

People wait to be vaccinated for COVID-19 at the General Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday.  

The shortage of COVID-19 vaccines has triggered a political blame game in the State. It has stoked public anger and caused the Centre and the State to wrangle over the pricing and sourcing of the drug.

For once, the ruling LDF and the opposition UDF were on the same page. Both said that the onus was on the Centre to provide the vaccine free of cost to States to halt an aggressive second wave of infections.

On Thursday, Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala appeared to back Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's demand that the Centre ensured an adequate supply of vaccine doses to retard the pandemic, prevent further loss of life and save States from economic devastation.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr. Chennithala echoed Mr. Vijayan's sentiment that the State could ill afford to supply vaccines free to its residents. The Centre should underwrite the cost.

Social media challenge

Meanwhile, LDF supporters launched a social media campaign with the hashtag “vaccine challenge.” It aimed at raising contributions to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) to purchase vaccines. However, some viewed this as a dig at the Centre's alleged reluctance to supply the doses free to States.

Mr. Vijayan said the campaign had raised ₹22 lakhs on Thursday alone. He highlighted it as a manifestation of the State’s unity in the face of long odds.

The CPI(M) said that the Centre had upended India's free and universal vaccination regime by allowing private players to hike the price and dominate the supply of COVID-19 vaccines.

‘Constitutional violation’

Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP), an LDF think tank, said that the Centre had urged States to procure vaccines at the market price fixed by manufacturers. It had violated the constitutional obligation to ensure free and universal vaccination, it said.

Moreover, the Centre had opened the door for the hoarding and black marketing of vaccine doses. It lauded the State's decision to procure vaccines independently without waiting for the Centre's generosity.

BJP State president K. Surendran accused the government of attempting to scapegoat the Centre for its shortcomings. The Centre had delivered 62,42,833 doses to the State till April 21. More consignments were on their way, he said.

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 8:45:15 PM |

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