Himanta Biswa Sarma floats crowdfunding campaign to help keep ‘free vaccine’ pledge
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday appealed to the state’s residents to donate money to help the state fund Covid-19 vaccines for people in the 18-44 age group.
Sarma estimated the government would have to spend ₹800 crore to vaccinate nearly 12 million residents in this age bracket and hoped the donations would raise about ₹100 crore.
“I appeal to the state’s residents to make the ‘gift a vaccine’ campaign a mass movement. Gifting a vaccine is like giving life to someone. While two doses of Covishield cost ₹600, the same for Covaxin costs ₹800. People can give amounts equal to one dose or more depending on their financial capacity,” he said.
Sarma’s Bharatiya Janata Party had promised free vaccines to people in the run-up to the state elections.
The Centre only provides free Covishield and Covaxin doses to vaccinate those above 45 years. State governments have to bear the cost of vaccinating residents in the 18-44 age category.
It is a promise, Sarma said on Thursday, that his government will deliver on irrespective of how the crowdfunding campaign shapes out. A similar appeal for donations for Covid-19 relief last year had yielded ₹119 crores in the Arogya Nidhi bank account set up for this purpose by the state government.
“All of that amount would be used to procure vaccines. On top of that, I will hand over ₹50 crore from the CM’s Relief Fund to the health department to buy vaccines,” the chief minister said.
The chief minister said the state government has vaccinated over 3.5 million people till now. The state has the capacity to vaccinate nearly 100,000 people daily, but because of the scarcity of vaccines, the government is vaccinating only 50,000 people daily. But vaccines will be more easily available in coming months
Sarma asked the public to send their contributions to the Arogya Nidhi bank account set up last year to collect funds for Covid19 relief or even the CM Relief Fund.
He said Reliance Industries Limited has contributed ₹15 crore for Assam’s vaccination fund and several other organisations have pledged to donate a day’s salary of their employees or substantial sums for the initiative.
“We hope to collect nearly ₹100 cr from the campaign. The government’s commitment to provide free vaccines for all still stands and irrespective of how much funds we are able to generate from the public, our vaccination drive will continue unabated,” said Sarma.
On Wednesday, Assam recorded 6,143 new cases and 89 deaths. At present, the state has nearly 48,000 active Covid19 cases.
The chief minister said while Assam’s Covid-19 situation hasn’t seen a significant improvement - the state still has 48,000 active Covid-19 cases and recorded 6,143 new cases on Wednesday - he saw the decline in the positive rate from 9% to 6% as a good sign.