Govt's claim of no shortage of Covid-19 vaccines hollow, says P Chidambaram
Senior Congress leader and former union minister P Chidambaram on Saturday asked the central government whether it has adequate stock of COVID-19 vaccines when more people will visit hospitals to take the shot from May 1.
Chidambaram further cautioned the government and said that the decision of vaccinating all aged above 18 years carries a huge responsibility.
"When the surge in demand happens on May 1 and more people flock to hospitals for vaccination, will there be adequate stocks of vaccines all over the country? If people are turned away at hospitals, there will be great resentment and protests," Chidambaram told ANI.
The Centre on April 19 had announced a ''liberalised'' policy, making all above 18 years of age eligible to get vaccinated from May 1. It has also allowed state governments and private hospitals to purchase vaccines from manufacturers.
As per the central government, manufacturers of Covid-19 vaccines will be free to supply 50 per cent doses to state governments and in the open market, for which they will have to make an advance declaration of the price before May 1.
"We welcome the decision to vaccinate all aged above 18 years. However, we have to caution the central government that this decision brings with it a huge responsibility," said the former union minister.
"The first and foremost requirement is the availability of vaccines. There are widespread complaints about the lack of supply of vaccines. The government's claim that there is no shortage of vaccines is hollow and untrue," he added.
The Congress leader further expressed doubt and said: "I am skeptical. Nevertheless, I urge the government to start preparing now for the time in order to meet the much greater demand for vaccines on and after the day (May 1)," he said.
India had started the COVID-19 vaccination drive on January 16 with two vaccines -- Covishield (Oxford-AstraZeneca's vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India) and Covaxin (manufactured by Bharat Biotech Limited).
The second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination drive to inoculate people above 60 years and those over 45 with comorbidities against the coronavirus began from March 1. The third phase began on April 1 for all above 45 years of age.
In the next phase beginning May 1, all above the age of 18 would be eligible to receive the shot.