With Kerala’s COVID-19 cases continuing to soar, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, urging the Centre to provide the entirequantity of vaccines needed by state governments free of cost. The state recorded 19,577 fresh cases on Tuesday in the highest single day surge since the outbreak of the pandemic last year, when a medical student from Wuhan tested positive on January 30 on her return to the state,making her the first person to be infected in the country due to the virus.
On the Centre’s April 19 policy that vaccine manufacturers would supply 50 per cent of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory released doses to the union government and be free to supply the balance to state governments and the open market, Vijayan said the additional burden of purchasing the vaccines will put considerable strain on the state’s finances and hence these should be distributed free of cost. “The state governments have been asked to get vaccinesfrom the manufacturers at a price.
The state governments are already facing additional financial commitments from the consequences of the pandemic. Given the present scenario, we have to provide vaccines to the public free of cost.
As the economic downturn is still persisting, the additional burden of purchasing the vaccine will place considerable strain on State finances”, he said in the letter, a copy of which was released to the media here. The state governments have a constitutional obligation in the healthsector and do need an assured quota of COVID-19 vaccine,which has to be provided free in the pandemic situation.
“It is imperative that vaccinesare provided to the States as a public good, free of cost,” he said. Though the policy states the Centre will provide vaccine free of cost to state governments from its 50 per cent quota based on criteria,states need a reassurance that they will not be left to compete with open market players,he said.
“Instead ofhaving a Government of India channel, we need to have a Government channel which will include the State Governments through whom the vaccine will be distributed”, the CM said. Vijayan urged the Prime Minister to reconsider this aspect of the new policy on distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and provide the entire quantity of vaccine needed free of cost to state governments.
The openmarket distributors may be permitted to have a specified quota of vaccines for which affordable prices have to be fixed so that unscrupulous players do not exploit the public,he said. With Kerala witnessing the second wave of COVID-19 and each day witnessing a substantial surge, Vijayan said the Centre and the states have to “work together” to crush the rising curve of cases.
The state, which had requested for 50 lakh doses of vaccine to implement its vaccination plan, had so far received only 5.5 lakh doses, due to which the government was forced to stop on the spot registration, affecting efforts to deal with the rapid surge, he said and urged the Centre to allot the balance doses at the earliest.