Many Welcome New Vaccine Policy, But States’ Concerns Persist
Congress leader P Chidambaram said that the new policy is regressive and inequitable in crucial aspects.
Several states and opposition leaders have welcomed the new vaccine policy, part of which was its decision to permit everyone above 18 years of age to be vaccinated from 1 May. The new policy was unveiled by Government of India on Monday, 19 April.
However, many among them have also expressed concerns over vaccine shortage, a crumbling health infrastructure and increasing burden of responsibility of the states.
New Policy Overburdens States, Encourages Profiteering: Cong
The Congress on Tuesday, 20 April, said that the central government was running away from its responsibilities under its modified vaccine policy which, “overburdens the states and encourages vaccine manufacturers to profiteer”.
Congress leader P Chidambaram said that the new policy is regressive and inequitable in crucial aspects, ANI reported.
- He added that the states will bear the responsibility and cost of vaccinating the poor who are below the age of 45 years and are neither healthcare workers nor frontline warriors, as defined by the Centre.
- Chidambaram further said, “The central government appears to have abdicated its responsibility towards the poor by excluding them from it’s vaccination programme. In a country where the median age is 28 years, to leave those who are below the age of 45 years out of a public-funded programme is, to say the least, callous.”
- “Migrant workers, who are the lifeblood of the economy of our cities, will be the worst-hit by this directive,” he added.
States already facing financial constraints: Kerala CM
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan welcomed the move to make the vaccine available to every adult. However, he pointed out that though the state had demanded 50 lakh vaccine doses, out of which only 5.5 lakh doses were provided to the state.
- Vijayan also urged the Central government to provide the entire quantity of vaccine needed free of cost to the State governments.
- He added that the state governments have been asked to procure the vaccine from manufacturers at a price, which will be tough since the state governments are already facing additional financial constraints due to the pandemic.
- Vijayan mentioned that given the present scenario, the Kerala government has to provide the vaccines free of cost.
- Vijayan asked for reassurance from the central government hoping that the states will not be left to compete with private players. He further expressed his concern saying that unscrupulous players might exploit the public.
New Vaccine Policy Hollow, Regrettable Show of Evasion: Bengal CM
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote to PM Modi, stating that the Centre’s new vaccine policy was “hollow, without substance and a regrettable show of evasion of responsibility”.
Banerjee reminded the PM that she had, in a letter dated 24 February, requested his intervention to allow Bengal purchase vaccines directly with state resources and give free vaccination to people of the state. She further wrote:
- “No response (to her letter) was received from your (PM’s) end. Now when the number of cases in the second wave of COVID is spiralling like anything, the Centre has chosen to tactically indulge in rhetorics and shy away from its responsibility for making vaccines available to the people of the country.”
- “It is apprehended that the announced policy may lead to unscrupulous mechanisms in the market, including pricing of vaccines, as it appears to be based on market prices that may put the common people under huge financial burden.”
- “More importantly, the supply would also become very erratic because vaccine manufacturers are hardly prepared to scale up their production capacities to the desired levels to meet the nationwide demand.”
- “I would earnestly request you to kindly ensure a fair, transparent and credible vaccination policy addressing all the issues outlined above, which would enable the people of the country to get vaccines urgently at affordable prices as per current scale as applicable.”
Banerjee added that the required vaccines are not currently available in the market and requested steps to ensure their availability at the earliest.
(With inputs from ANI and PTI)
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