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Bring centralised COVID vaccine procurement, allocation policy: Delhi govt to Centre

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Amid the shortage of COVID vaccines in several parts of the country, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Monday wrote to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan urging the Centre to come out with a centralised vaccine procurement and allocation policy.

“I am constrained to take up the issue of vaccination, especially for the youth of our country, which has been messed up due to the policy mis-steps and it is high time that we take corrective measures. Our nation is blessed to have several pharmaceutical companies and India can proudly claim to be the pharmacy capital for the world. In spite of the early advantages given by our scientific community and Indian manufacturers, we have squandered away the great opportunity of timely vaccination of our people,” wrote Sisodia in his letter to the Union Health Minister.

He further said the “missed opportunity” by the Government of India (GOI) has resulted in an extraordinary loss of lives during the current wave of the COVID pandemic. “When the COVID cases and the number of deaths started sky-rocketing towards the end of April 2021, the GOI abruptly changed the vaccination policy and stated that the states will have to make their own arrangements for vaccinating the youth,” the letter read.

Sisodia alleged the GOI allowed the two major vaccine manufacturers in the country to fix illogical differential pricing for the Central government and the state governments.

Asserting that the Delhi government is willing to pay the price for the procurement of vaccines considering its impact on the lives of the people, he said: “The Delhi Government did not waste any time in placing orders for the locally available vaccines and placed orders for 67 lakh doses of Covishield and 67 lakh doses of Covaxin. We scaled up the vaccination capabilities to about 5 lakh people a day. We have earmarked vaccination centers with due provision for holding areas for about 300-500 persons, observation rooms and waiting rooms having proper sitting arrangements providing for social distancing.”

The Deputy Chief Minister claimed that after placing the orders, the Delhi Government has been told by the two manufacturers that it is the GOI which fixes the quota for allocation to different States, and accordingly Delhi received only 1,50,000 doses of Covaxin and 6,67,690 doses of Covishield.

Cornering the Centre, Sisodia said, “Due to non-allocation by the GOI, we had to shut down the vaccination centres for people in the age group of 18-44 years from May 23, 2021. Delhi, similar to several other states, is in lockdown since April 19, 2021. The lockdown time should ideally be utilised to vaccinate the maximum number of our citizens. Unfortunately, due to the lack of planning and strategy of the GOI, the states are unable to vaccinate their people in time.”

He said the Delhi Government approached various vaccine manufacturers in the world including Pfizer and Moderna and it has been told by all the vaccine manufacturers that they are dealing only at the level of the GOI and not with any State Governments.

He requested the central government to come out with a centralised vaccine procurement and allocation policy.

Sisodia alleged the Centre has “left the people of this country including Delhi in such a vulnerable position and made the States and the people fend for themselves”.

He said the Central government controls the production and supply of vaccines by Indian manufacturers and it also controls the supply of vaccines by manufacturers from abroad.

“It is high time that the GOI comes out with a coherent, transparent and effective vaccination policy for all the citizens of this country including children. Health experts have been warning that the next wave of COVID is likely to affect the children the most and many countries have already started vaccination at a very high level for the children. A meaningful vaccination policy on the above lines will prevent further loss of life and also allow the battered economy to revive,” he concluded.

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