India must be united in hunt for vaccine shots: CM Kejriwal
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday asked the Centre to procure vaccine doses and distribute them across the country, saying that several states failed to get global vaccine makers to supply to them directly, a remark that appeared to intensify the tussle over shortage of jabs amid a widened inoculation drive.
The chief minister drew a war analogy to make his point. “If Pakistan declares war tomorrow, we cannot tell UP (Uttar Pradesh) to get their own tanks and Delhi to get their own arms. If India loses the war, it won’t be a loss for the BJP but a loss for India as a nation. If Delhi loses the battle, the Aam Aadmi Party does not lose, India will lose. If Maharashtra loses the battle, it is not the Shiv Sena that will lose, but India will lose,” Kejriwal said in a digital briefing, adding that the country needed to stand in solidarity as “Team India”.
The chief minister recently said Delhi received 1.6 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines in May, and its allocation for June was halved to around 800,000, adding that at this rate, it would take the city 30 months to inoculate its entire adult population of about 15 million adults.
On Wednesday, Kejriwal said the Delhi government has received supply assurances from Dr Reddy’s Laboratories for Sputnik V doses but added that there was little clarity on the number of doses. “Senior government officials had their last meeting regarding Sputnik V supplies on Tuesday. They assured us they will supply but we are currently discussing how many doses they can supply to Delhi at the earliest,” he said.
He later appealed to the Centre to approve vaccines being used in other countries for use in India and stressed on expanding the vaccination drive to include people under the age of 18.
“At this point we should have opened more vaccine centres. But the shortage of vaccines is forcing governments to close vaccine centres. This is concerning… We could have protected India’s population to a large extent from the devastation caused by the second wave of the pandemic with more vaccination. We should have started vaccinating and scaled up the drive at least six month ago. We were (one of) the first countries to start manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines. But when several countries were expanding their vaccine coverage, we chose to export our vaccines to other countries. We should have started the vaccination drive on a war footing in December 2020,” said Kejriwal.
“In March, the second wave started. India should have procured vaccines from across the world. But then, states were asked to procure vaccines on their own. I am in touch with several chief ministers. They have left no stone unturned in their attempts to procure more vaccines, except the ones which were supplied by the central government. But, as far as I know, no state has been able to procure even one vaccine dose directly from the manufacturers on their own. Vaccine companies have clearly said that they will only talk to the central government. Global tenders were floated but they failed,” Kejriwal said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) shot back, accusing the Delhi CM of indulging in “politics of self-promotion”. Party spokesperson Sambit Patra said Kejriwal earlier advocated the decentralisation of the vaccination programme, but after the Centre did so, he took a U-turn and was indulging in “lies, misinformation and credit-taking”.
The government’s vaccine bulletin on Wednesday said that 43,824 doses were administered in the city on Tuesday. AAP MLA Atishi, in a video press briefing, said around a week ago, about 125,000 to 140,000 people were being vaccinated in Delhi daily, but there has been a drop in the numbers now as hundreds of centres for ages 18-45 have been shut due to the shortage of jabs.