‘Better late than never’: Kejriwal on Centre’s policy to buy vaccines for states
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday appreciated the central government’s policy to buy vaccines for all beneficiary groups for distribution among states from June 21 even as he highlighted the role of the Supreme Court in this regard and expressed concerns over low production of vaccines in the country.
“Vaccine shortage is concerning. It is a good thing that the central government has decided to buy vaccines and distribute them among states from June 21. We welcome the decision, even though it was done after the Supreme Court’s intervention and its pressure. Better late than never,” chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said during his visit to a site of an oxygen storage system in northwest Delhi’s Siraspur.
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Union government will take over the responsibility of procuring vaccines and distributing them to the states. The action comes in the wake of growing demand for vaccines from the states, sharp criticism from the Supreme Court and increasing concerns that supply shortages and the insistence of foreign vaccine makers to deal only with the Union government could derail India’s vaccine drive.
The Union government will continue to allow private hospitals to buy up to 25% of the vaccines made in India, although it has capped the service charge they can levy on these at ₹150 a dose.
Kejrival, however, asked if there would be enough vaccines in view of the production capacity.
“But the biggest question mark looms over where will the government avail vaccines from. Production capacity in the country is still very low. If we have a sufficient number of vaccines, and other states follow Delhi’s model, the whole population can be vaccinated in three months.”
Kejriwal cited the city government’s ongoing initiative of engaging 13,000-odd booth level officers in the city and MLAs to visit every household and convince people aged 45 years and above to get vaccinated at the earliest in temporary vaccination sites set up at the polling booths close to their residences.
Nearly 15 million of Delhi’s population of 20 million is above the age of 18 and eligible for vaccination. Government records show around 5.79 million people in the city have got at least one dose of the vaccine and 1.34 million have taken both.
The city government has been able to increase the number of vaccination centres due to improvement in vaccine supplies. The government’s health bulletin indicated there were 739 centres administering vaccines to the 45+ age group on Thursday, a substantial increase over the 482 centres a day earlier. Similarly, the number of centres offering vaccines to the 18-45 group also went up from 95 on Wednesday to 231 centres on Thursday.
Inadequate supplies had earlier forced the government to suspend government-run vaccine centres for the 18-45 group for more than two weeks. The number of sites for the 45+ group reduced to 414 earlier this week.
AAP legislator Atishi, while reading out the government’s vaccine bulletin in a video briefing on Thursday, said, “We are shocked that the central government has written to several states, including Delhi, directing them not to disclose vaccine stock numbers. We urge them to invest more on vaccine production and supplies instead of focussing on reducing transparency on stock positions.”
Govt to vaccinate delivery agents
Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on Thursday told the health department to tie up with companies – especially in the retail and food aggregator sectors – to ensure that their delivery agents are vaccinated.
In a statement issued by Sisodia’s office, the deputy chief minister instructed the officials concerned to tie up with organisations such as Amazon, Flipkart, Zomato, Swiggy, Dunzo, and others, to ensure vaccination for the delivery persons working for these organisations.
“Delhi has received vaccines for the 18-44 years age group and has begun vaccination drives for this segment of the population... We now need to focus on people who have been working as delivery persons. They are at extra risk as their job involves travelling home to home and meeting multiple people throughout the day. Hence, these agents are making sure that people stay within homes and avoid crowding markets etc, and we should vaccinate them at the earliest,” it said.