States cannot afford to compete among themselves to buy coronavirus vaccines – any more than being forced to buy individual stores of weapons and ammunition in case of an attack by Pakistan – Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Wednesday afternoon.
Mr Kejriwal called on the centre to play its part in the vaccination drive and urgently procure enough doses to inoculate people in the national capital and across the country, rather than leaving it to states to try and negotiate separate deals with manufacturers.
“Why isn’t this country buying vaccines? We can’t leave it to individual states. We are at war against COVID-19. If Pakistan attacks India, will the centre leave states to defend themselves? Will Uttar Pradesh buy its own tanks or Delhi its own guns?” the Chief Minister asked.
“Unlike many other countries, India delayed vaccination by six months. The first vaccine was made by Indians in India. We should have been manufacturing and stocking up since then… if we’d done that, we may have prevented some of the deaths in the second wave,” he added.
India has been hit hard by the second wave of infections, with more than 3,000 deaths per day since April 28 and over 2,000 a day since April 21.
By contrast, the most deaths in a day in the first wave was less than 1,200.
The second wave has coincided with a worrying dip in vaccinations, as the centre and states go back and forth over the demand and supply of doses.
States insist they do not have enough doses to vaccinate both age groups – 18-44 and over-45. The centre insists that they do. This has slowed vaccinations, particularly for the former age group, which government data says accounts for nearly half of all new Covid cases this month.
Under the centre’s new “liberalised” vaccination policy states are now required to independently source 50 per cent of their vaccines. However, documents accessed by NDTV seem to indicate the centre has fixed specific quotas for how many doses the Delhi government can purchase from manufacturers.
Delhi reached out to Pfizer and Moderna but it was refused. The US pharma giants said they would deal only with the centre. It received a more favourable response from Sputnik V manufacturers.
Two weeks ago Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said Covaxin manufacturers Bharat Biotech had also refused to supply doses, citing the centre’s directives and limited availability.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said his government ]had been refused by Moderna.
“We cannot change what happened but, for the past two months, every state is trying to get its own vaccines. As far as I know, no state has been able to manage a single dose (apart from stocks supplied by the centre). Many states tried but failed…” Mr Kejriwal said.
“This is a time for the country to work together and not for states to compete among themselves for vaccines. I request the Prime Minister – we can’t do the job that is not ours (arranging for vaccines). You get us the vaccines, we will do our job (vaccinating people),” he added.
“We have already lost six months… more lives will be lost if we don’t work together as Team India to defeat coronavirus,” Mr Kejriwal said.
The city today reported 1,491 new Covid cases in the past 24 hours. The positivity rate has now dropped below two per cent for the first time in nearly nine weeks.