While hitting out at the opposition over the higher wastage of COVID-19 vaccines and the tardy overall pace of vaccination, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that the Centre may look at centralised procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, Economic Times.
This comes at a time when most opposition-ruled States have asked the Centre to procure vaccines, backpedalling after having earlier sought more flexibility and freedom in vaccination. This gains significance as the global tenders issued by several State Governments has not elicited any serious response.
Allowing the States to procure vaccines on their own, the Centre had announced its liberalised and accelerated vaccination policy on 19 April.
Recently, the Supreme Court had also asked the Centre to procure vaccines at a negotiated price.
It should be noted that Sitharaman had provided Rs 35,000 crore of the Union Budget for the task of vaccination for the ongoing fiscal year. Sitharaman has also said that if required, more funds can also be provided.
Central government officials have maintained that as health is a state subject, the government had accepted the demands by the state governments for flexibility in vaccine procurement.
She remarked, “You criticise the Centre for lack of supplies. Even when there was supply at the time of vaccination for priority groups like healthcare, the pace has been so low.”
She was referring to the state of Punjab where only 65 per cent of the frontline health workers have received the first dose of vaccine.
“We started India's vaccination programme with this group. Doctors are frontline workers, who have to treat patients and are exposed to infections. You could not even complete their vaccination when there was no supply issue,” she said.
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