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Twitter War: KTR Lashes Out at Centre’s Inefficient Vax Policy

Answering questions during #AskKTR session on Twitter, KTR called out the botched vaccination drive of the Centre. 

Updated
Politics
4 min read
KTR said, “While all other countries were placing orders for vaccines back in the first half of 2020, Govt of India woke up late”. 
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Openly criticising the Centre’s vaccine policy, Telangana Industries Minister KT Rama Rao, popularly known as KTR, on Sunday, 6 June, lashed out at the Narendra Modi government for not procuring COVID-19 vaccines on time.

KTR is also the son of incumbent Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao.

“While all other countries were placing orders for vaccines back in the first half of 2020, Govt of India woke up late. Our orders were placed in Jan 2021 (sic),” the Minister tweeted in response to a question posed by a netizen during the #AskNTR session that was held on Twitter, this Sunday.

‘Centre Failed To Procure Vaccines On Time’

The Minister, who has, only in recent times, started becoming vocal in criticising the Centre, began the #AskKTR session on Twitter to converse about vaccination. The session was held at nearly 40,000 people were vaccinated at a private facility in Hyderabad’s Hi-Tech City.

However, what started as a simple question and answer session where the Minister was sharing key information regarding vaccine availability turned out to be a platform where he brought out multiple inefficiencies of the Centre’s vaccine policy.

Elaborating on the issue of late procurement of vaccines, he said the US in May 2020 secured 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca Covid -19 vaccine but didn’t use it fully under its vaccination programme. Countries like Norway, Denmark and Canada also, he said, had ordered significant quantities of the AstraZeneca vaccine by then.

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“Counting up all the vaccine deals per capita; Canada has procured nearly nine doses per person. While all this was happening, Govt of India was pushing Vaccine Maitri and promoting exports from India.”
Telangana Industries Minister KT Rama Rao
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‘Gap in Vaccine Supply Delaying Vaccination In Telangana’

To a question on when the entire population of Telangana would be vaccinated, he said the process has been delayed as there is a gap in vaccine supply. “We have the ability to vaccinate more than 10 lakh people a day but unfortunately constraints on vaccine supplies is hampering brisk progress.”

Answering a Twitter user’s query on why India does not make deals with other countries to procure vaccines doses that they might have in excess, KTR tweeted saying there are more than 50 crore unused doses of AstraZeneca vaccine (called Covishield in India) in various countries like United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway.

“Govt of India needs to start a dialogue immediately and procure these asap and allot to states.”

To a question on why the Union government is not procuring vaccines centrally and giving them to states, he said that the Indian government had announced that they have allocated Rs 35,000 crore in Union budget for vaccination.

“Assuming we cover 100% population, we need 272 crore doses @150 Rupees per dose. Don’t know where the allocation has gone now,” he tweeted.

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‘Pitted States Against Each Other’

Answering a question on why Centre’s vaccine policy is selective, KTR said, “The total current production capabilities of Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute as of May 2020 is approximately 10 Cr doses per month. Now I request you to do the math as to how this would cover the huge percentage of 18-45 age group which is nearly 80 Cr @ 2 doses each.”

When a twitter user asked, “Where is my vaccine?” KTR immediately replied saying, “Ask Govt of India that bungled up and created this situation where states are pitted against one another and against the Pvt sector”. He added that the Centre didn’t place orders when they had to and even now is not coming forward to call for a single tender for the entire country.

“When the states reach out to vaccine manufacturers, they are clearly saying they would rather deal with one entity that is Govt of India, who unfortunately seems to have no urgency to go for a global procurement and supply to all Indian states.”

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‘Centre’s 85 % Share, Unfair’

On a query on why can’t Telangana incentivise pharma companies in the state and urge them to produce vaccines locally, KTR said, “Unfortunately, all their production is being closely monitored by Govt of India which is taking 85 per cent production. In the remaining 15 per cent, we have to compete with other states and hospitals who buy at three times the rate. Guess who would they prefer selling to?

On a query on why private hospitals were charging exorbitant rates for vaccines, he said that the Union government had permitted different entities to sell vaccines at different prices. “For Centre, it is Rs 150 and they take 85 per cent of all vaccine produced. For states, Covishield is priced at Rs 300 and Covaxin at Rs 400.”

He added that private hospitals can get Covishield at Rs 600 and Covaxin at Rs 1,200.Although the Minister continuously attacked the Centre for its ineffective vaccine policy, he defended the Telangana government’s vaccination process.

On a question on what the Telangana government aims to do to vaccinate its population, KTR said that the state is doing its best to speed up the vaccination process through global tenders. But unfortunately, global tenders have evoked no response, he tweeted.

To a question on when vaccination would be opened for the 18-plus age group in the state, the industries minister said that the age category vaccination is strategically misplaced. “Telangana government has taken a novel approach to vaccinate high exposure and high risk occupational categories irrespective of age and we are covering both urban and rural areas”, he said.

The high exposure group, he said, included cab or auto drivers, vegetable or fruit vendors, food delivery persons and journalists, among others. “More than 30 lakh people have been identified and their vaccination is underway.”

Replying to a question on why people are not getting free vaccines promised by the state government, he said, “We have already procured more than 7.5 lakh doses and have placed orders for 10 lakh more. However, as vaccine availability is limited the process has slowed down”, he said.

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