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Odisha, Jharkhand join chorus for Central vaccine procurement

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren   | Photo Credit: PTI

Days after Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan urged other chief ministers to come together to persuade the Centre to procure and distribute vaccines free for the whole nation, Odisha and Jharkhand have also called for centralised procurement. Both States underline the fact that vaccine manufacturers outside India are unwilling to deal directly with States.

After receiving a lukewarm response to its global tender, the Odisha government said on Tuesday that it would be better if the Centre took the responsibility of dealing with the vaccine manufacturers.

It said a major hurdle in procurement was the issue of indemnity sought by global manufacturers like Pfizer and Moderna. According to officials, only the Centre could assure indemnity. According to the State government, manufacturers were willing to deal only with federal-level Central procurement, at this stage.

Global vaccine manufacturers would require the Central government’s statutory clearances for supplying to the States, said Odisha Health and Family Welfare Minister Naba Kisor Das in a letter to Union Health and Family Affairs Minister Harsh Vardhan on Tuesday.

Flexibility of coverage

In his letter of May 31 to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren urged him to provide “free vaccines for beneficiaries of all age groups”. He also requested the “freedom to define priorities for vaccination coverage”.

On the issue of asking States to procure vaccines on their own, Mr Soren said it “stands against the principle of co-operative federalism”.

“This is probably for the first instance in the history of independent India that the States have been mandated to procure vaccines on their own. Such a mandate, under the challenging and unprecedented circumstances where the entire nation is struggling for over a year, stands against the principle of cooperative federalism,” Mr Soren said.

Mr. Soren said, “It is requested to provide to the State free vaccines for beneficiaries of all age groups and also give us freedom to define priorities for vaccination coverage,” adding, “this would help in achieving the target of full vaccination in a timely manner.”

While the Naveen Patnaik government said it did not want free vaccines for the 18-44 age-group, it also demanded flexibility in distribution as it planned to do away with online registration issues to help the poor and people in rural areas. It also wanted to vaccinate Class XII students and their families on a priority basis, to expedite the opening of educational institutions.

Huge costs

Raising the issue of the costs, Mr. Soren said the “financial burden on the State for vaccination of the 18-44 cohort is likely to be more that ₹1,100 crore considering 1.57 crore eligible beneficiaries. With vaccine being available for age cohort of 12-18 years and below, the mentioned financial burden will further increase by around ₹1,000 crore. It will be extremely difficult to spare as much resources from the resources pool of the State which is already stressed during Covid times.”

Mr Soren also highlighted the difficulties in procuring vaccines. “Jharkhand is putting all efforts to procure directly from the available manufacturers for the 18 to 44 years. However, the supplies against the orders placed continue to remain extremely limited and it ultimately depends on the allocations made by the Central government, ” he said.

Limited response

Echoing the lukewarm response from suppliers, Odisha Minister Das said, “There has been limited response to the [State’s global] tender ... The Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech have not participated in the pre-bid meeting. It is understood that at their present capacity they won't be able to provide vaccines on a scale required by the States and there is an urgent need to scale up their capacities,” he observed.

According to the Minister, the State so far had vaccinated 61,06,415 people with at least one dose and had been vaccinating at a rate of more than 2 lakh per day in early April. “Due to the vaccine supply constraints, we are currently able to vaccinate only 60,000-70.000 people per day, with one of the lowest vaccine wastage, even though we have the capacity to vaccinate 3 lakh people per day,” he said.

After the Centre allowed the States to procure vaccines directly from permitted vaccine manufacturers for the 18-45 age group, the government had immediately placed an order for 220 lakh doses of Covishield with SII and 10.34 lakh doses of Covaxin with Bharat Biotech.

“However, so far they have only supplied 5,78,480 doses of Covishield and 1,65,490 doses of Covaxin. This is quite inadequate in view of the huge demand for vaccines across the State,” the Health Minister said.

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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 12:31:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/odisha-jharkhand-join-chorus-for-central-vaccine-procurement/article34702588.ece

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