With 4 queries and a jibe, Congress continues to question govt over vaccines
The Congress party on Sunday threw four questions at the government over its vaccine policy and pointed out that vaccinations are an "important public service and not a political or business opportunity". Among the four questions were issues regarding the prices of the Covishield and Covaxin doses and the Centre's decision to allow the exports of one of the vaccines before immunising everyone in the country.
"Vaccine Development & Mass Immunization were neither Events' or Publicity Stunts but important milestones in the service of the people'. While the country stands united in providing immunization against Corona Virus to our Frontline Corona Warriors' i.e. Doctors, Health Workers, Police Personnel & others, let remember that vaccinations are an important Public Service and not a Political or Business Opportunity," senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said in a statement released on Twitter.
The opposition party has been critical of the government with senior Congress leader Manish Tewari and Union health minister Harsh Vardhan sparring on Twitter on Saturday, the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the country's mammoth inoculation drive. Tewari had raised questions over the emergency use approval given to the indigenously-developed vaccine Covaxin and Vardhan hitting back alleging that the Congress leader was only passionate about spreading rumours.
Before that, senior Congress leaders Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh and Shashi Tharoor had also raised concerns over India's drugs regulator's nod to the restricted use of Bharat Biotech's vaccine against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). In response to the criticism, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had then hit out at Congress with party president JP Nadda alleging that whenever India achieves something commendable the opposition party comes up with "wild theories" to "ridicule" the accomplishments.
On Sunday, Surjewala said PM Modi and the government need to answer important questions. "Who will get Free Corona Vaccine? How many people will get Free Corona Vaccine? Where will you get Free Corona Vaccine?" he asked as he pointed out the government's order for the vaccine doses will be inadequate.
The Congress party's general secretary also asked why should the government pay ₹95 more to Bharat Biotech for a vaccine that has been "developed with the expertise & experience of scientists of Govt owned ICMR". "Why should Modi Govt pay more for a vaccine that has only been tested on 755 individuals & is yet to be cleared after Phase II trials. Should the price of such a vaccine not be cheaper than the AstraZeneca-Serum Institute?" he questioned.
Surjewala then came to the price of Serum Institute's vaccine in the open market as he cited the chief executive of the Pune-based company Adar Poonawalla saying that they will sell Covishield for ₹1,000/dose in the open market or "2,000/dose for 2 doses required for every individual." "Isn't Modi Govt duty bound to ensure purchase of all "Covishield Doses' at 200/dose and enable the people to purchase at this price rather than 1,000/dose? When AstraZeneca has promised supply of vaccine "at no profit", why is Serum Institute being permitted to charge 1,000/dose, when they are supplying to Govt at 200/dose? he asked further.
Also read | In India, the story of Covid-19 vaccines
The last question was on the government's permission to SII to allow the export of its vaccine "without immunisation of India's population". "Corona Vaccine For All should be the stated policy of Modi Govt.
However, Modi Govt's approach on Free Vaccination or alternatively Cost of Vaccination', Cost to Exchequer', Profit Margins of Companies' etc for India's remaining 135 Crore people is completely opaque and shrouded in secrecy," Surjwewala said.
"Time for Prime Minister. Shri Narendra Modi & his Govt to come forward and answer," he added.
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