States where the Congress or its allies are in government, are saying that they will not be able to begin the third phase of the Covid-19 vaccination drive. All aged 18 and above will be eligible to receive the life-saving jab in the third phase of the nationwide inoculation drive starting May 1.
Addressing a virtual press conference on Sunday, the health ministers of Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand said there is an acute shortage of Covid-19 vaccines in their states. The ongoing vaccination drive for frontline workers and those aged 45 and above has hit a roadblock owing to a massive gap between demand and supply, they claimed.
The health ministers of the four states are now appealing to the Centre to ensure that the supply of coronavirus vaccines is proportional to their population.
Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said that the state government has made elaborate arrangements to vaccinate 3 lakh people per day.
He, however, went on to say that Punjab is unable to meet this target since the state only has 4 lakh doses of Covid-19 vaccines left.
TS Singh Deo, the Health Minister of Chhattisgarh, said the third phase of the inoculation drive will be funded by states but the vaccination receipts have the photo of the Prime Minister. “The Centre has put the onus on states to roll out, but when vaccines are not available, how can we perform this duty,” said Deo.
The Chhattisgarh minister also said that arrangements are in place in the state to vaccinate 3.5-4 lakh people each day. For a population of 1.2 crore, which is people above 18 years of age, it would take 30-40 days to complete the drive if the Centre supplies enough vaccines, said TS Singh Deo.
Rajasthan’s Health Minister Dr Raghu Sharma said 30 per cent of the villages in the state are reporting coronavirus infections. The surge in rural areas may be because of the Kumbh festival, he said.
The Serum Institute of India (SII) has told officials that they will not be able to provide vaccine before May 15 owing to pending orders from the central government, said Raghu Sharma.
The Health Minister of Rajasthan said during the virtual press conference, “We have 3.13 crore population between 18 to 45 years of age, arrangements have been made to give 7 lakh doses per day, enough storage capacity has been ensured at district headquarters, we are ready to pay for the vaccines, but it is the responsibility of the Center to make sure that states get vaccine supply as per demand.”
Banna Gupta, the Health Minister of Jharkhand, said the state is being meted out ‘step-motherly’ treatment by the central government. The Centre has hijacked the entire production capacity of the two vaccine manufacturers, he claimed.
“We are not able to procure vaccines from them despite the fact that we are ready to pay,” said the Jharkhand Health Minister. How can all the states manage to vaccinate their population when facing shortages of supply, asked Banna Gupta while also questioning the Centre’s decision to export vaccines.