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Centre creating ‘artificial scarcity’ of vaccines to favour pvt sector: AAP

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) spokespersons Raghav Chadha and Atishi on Friday accused the central government of creating an “artificial scarcity” of vaccines in India by favouring supplies to private sector facilities over state governments, including Delhi
By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAY 28, 2021 11:45 PM IST

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) spokespersons Raghav Chadha and Atishi on Friday accused the central government of creating an “artificial scarcity” of vaccines in India by favouring supplies to private sector facilities over state governments, including Delhi.

Alleging that the state was choking state governments of vaccine supplies and diverting stocks to private facilities — which charge for doses, unlike public centres, forcing people to pay for vaccines.

“The Delhi government has run out of vaccines, forcing centres for the 18-45 age group to be suspended. These centres offered vaccines for free. But the private centres, which charge between 1,000 and 1,500 for a dose, have adequate stocks. How are they getting the supplies? It’s because the central government is favouring the private sector over the state governments when it comes to ensuring supply of vaccines. It also looks like doses meant for the state governments are being diverted to the private sector,” said AAP spokesperson and Rajendra Nagar MLA Raghav Chadha.

Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor called these allegations “unfounded.”

Union health ministry spokespersons did not respond to requests for comment.

India’s coronavirus vaccination drive follows two tracks: the Union government offers free doses meant for those 45 years of age and above; then there is the acquisition by state governments and private hospitals to give doses for any group they choose to cater to.

The Union government has made it mandatory for vaccine makers in India – at present, the two shots being used widely are both made in India – to keep 50% of their doses for the central supply, while the remaining will be evenly split between private procurers and state governments.

Out of the 50% quota allotted to each state, the division is made evenly. In other words, from out of the 50% allotted to the state, half will go to the state’s public channel [calculated on pro-rata basis based upon the population of age group of 18-44 years] and the balance will go to the private sector based upon the contracts between private sector and vaccine manufacturers, according to a formula the Centre shared with the Supreme Court affidavit in the second week of May.

“This is a big scam... Also, there are so many vaccines now that are approved across several states. Why is the Indian government refraining from giving emergency authorisation to other Covid-19 vaccine varieties?” said Atishi, who is the AAP’s MLA from Kalkaji.

Chadha said, “It is all about profits and looting the public in the garb of vaccinations. Now that more government sites are closing down, people are being forced to book slots in the private centres. Going by the rates in private hospitals, a family of five ends up paying at least 10,000 to get completely vaccinated. This could be done for free if the government sites were open. This is happening across several states now.”

“We ask the central government — how many doses have been allotted to private sectors, why are they not ensuring more vaccine supplies to state governments?,” Chadha added.

Atishi said, “The Union government is creating an artificial scarcity to favour the two manufacturers based in India, even after it is evident that these two companies have failed to scale up manufacturing capacity. A lot of lives could have been saved by expanding the vaccination drive at the right time.”

Spokespersons from Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India, the two vaccine manufacturers in India, did not respond to requests for comment.

The BJP hit back at the AAP’s allegations.

“The Centre has not caused any scarcity of vaccines,” said BJP spokesperson Kapoor.

“AAP leaders should know that creating scarcity and putting people at discomfort is chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s speciality,” he added.

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