Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday called for a consensus between states on asking the Centre to procure and distribute Covid-19 vaccines, and pointed out that global tenders being floated directly by the states were not yielding results.
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In a letter to his counterparts, which comes amid accusations from some states that the Centre has left them to fend for themselves as vaccine supplies are unable to match demand or capacity, Patnaik said that while administrating vaccines must be decentralised, procurement should not be.
“Many states have floated global tenders for vaccine procurement,” Patnaik said in the letter addressed to the chief ministers of all Indian states. But, he added, global vaccine manufacturers are looking to the Union government for clearances and assurances, and are unwilling to get into supply contracts with the state governments. Meanwhile, he added, “…domestic vaccine manufacturers are having supply constraints and are not able to commit required supplies.” Patnaik said his government wants all states to reach a consensus for the early resolution of the problem.
Chief ministers Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi), Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Uddhav Thackeray (Maharashtra), Pinarayi Vijayan (Kerala), and Hemant Soren (Jharkhand) are among the CMs who have raised concerns over the Centre’s vaccine procurement policy.
India administered an average of 1.93 million doses a day in May, even as most states ran out of supplies by the fourth week of the month for certain groups of recipients, primarily those between 18 and 45 years of age. Though at least 10 states have issued global tenders over the past month, none of them have been able to get doses so far.
Patnaik called the pandemic the greatest challenge the country has faced since Independence, and added that states should set aside political differences and come together.
“Especially, after the second wave, people are very scared about future waves and variants…” Patnaik said.
Responding to criticism that the Centre was not doing enough to help states procure Covid-19 vaccines, VK Paul, member (health), Niti Aayog, in a statement last week said, “The Central government has remained engaged continuously with all the major international vaccine manufacturers right from mid-2020. However, it is not that their vaccines are available in free supply…”
Till Tuesday, Odisha had fully vaccinated 89% of its health care workers, 95% of its frontline workers and around 9% of its population above the age of 45 years.
However, it has been able to give first dose to only about 0.038 % of its population in the age group of 18-45 years.
Vaccine expert Dr Epari Venkat Rao in Bhubaneswar’s SUM Hospital said though Odisha’s efficiency rate in vaccine was good, it should not be a criteria in distribution. “Population and sub-population that is vulnerable should be the criteria…”