Ask them first: Ravi Shankar Prasad hits back at Rahul over vaccine letter
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Friday launched a scathing attack on Rahul Gandhi after the Congress leader wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to allow states to have a greater say in the procurement and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. In a series of tweets, Prasad also called Rahul Gandhi a part-time politician and a ‘lobbyist’ for pharmaceutical companies. “First he lobbied for fighter plane companies by trying to derail India’s acquisition programme. Now he is lobbying for pharma companies by asking for arbitrary approvals for foreign vaccines,” Prasad wrote on Twitter.
Prasad then asked Gandhi to stop Congress-led governments in states from stalling the Centre’s vaccination programme. “Rahul Gandhi must know that shortage in Congress ruled states is not of vaccines but of basic commitment towards health care. He should write to his party’s governments to stop their vasooli ventures and concentrate on administering the lakhs of vaccines they are sitting upon,” he further added.
The Union minister also questioned the 50-year-old Gandhi for not getting vaccinated. “Why has Rahul Gandhi not yet taken the vaccine? Is it an oversight or he does not want it or has he already taken one during many of his undisclosed trips to foreign locations but doesn't want to disclose?” Prasad asked. Gandhi had visited his grandmother in Italy in December, a day ahead of the Congress Foundation Day, which was also criticised by BJP leaders.
Gandhi in his letter to the Prime Minister also sought fast-track approval of other Covid-19 vaccines. He also took a jibe at PM Modi, saying that the vaccination drive should focus on guaranteeing maximum vaccination rather than putting an ‘individual’s picture on the vaccine certificate.’ He also criticised the decision to export vaccines to other nations calling it an ‘oversight.’
Several states in the past weeks have complained that they are facing a vaccine shortage. Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope on Wednesday said that the state has 14 lakh doses of Covid-19 vaccine which would only last for three days. On the same day, Karnataka health minister Dr K Sudhakar said that he requested the Centre to provide more Covid-19 vaccines in order to control the spread of the coronavirus disease, news agency ANI reported. Sudhakar later clarified that the state is not running short on vaccines on April 8.
Andhra Pradesh’s Nellore and West Godavari districts also faced a shortage of Covid-19 vaccines, people familiar with the developments told news agency ANI on Thursday. Jharkhand health minister Banna Gupta and Odisha chief minister Naveen Pattnaik also highlighted vaccine shortages in their respective states.
Union minister for health Harsh Vardhan and Union home minister Amit Shah rubbished reports of vaccine shortage, highlighting that all states have received an equal number of doses. Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said that the alarm raised by several states regarding vaccine shortages were attempts to hide their incompetence with connection to conducting inoculation drives. “Hue and cry by certain states about partisanship by the Union government is just a farce, an attempt to hide their own incompetence. Maharashtra and Rajasthan are 2 of the top 3 states based on allocation of Covid-19 vaccine doses,” Harsh Vardhan said in a tweet.
The Union health ministry said that more than 9.43 crore (in millions) people have been vaccinated against Covid-19 so far.