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Is India about to witness next round of vaccination politics?

Is India about to witness next round of vaccination politics?
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Is India about to witness next round of vaccination politics?

Highlights

After losing precious five months of time and after avoidable politics surrounding the distribution of vaccine, the Prime Minister finally announced that the Centre will buy 75 per cent of jabs from vaccine makers, including 25 per cent of the State quota and give it free to State governments

After losing precious five months of time and after avoidable politics surrounding the distribution of vaccine, the Prime Minister finally announced that the Centre will buy 75 per cent of jabs from vaccine makers, including 25 per cent of the State quota and give it free to State governments. Why this 'Kolaveri? the Centre needs to explain.

The saffron brigade may hail the decision of the PM and the opposition parties and state governments may claim that the Centre has finally accepted their demand, but both the Centre and States need to take the blame for the pathetic situation and confusion the country has been pushed into in regard to its vaccination policy.

The first mistake was that there was no transparent and clear policy framed by the Centre regarding distribution of vaccine. Across the globe, the federal governments took full charge of procurement and distribution of vaccine. India also started on a positive note by Centre going in for procuring vaccine but allowed politics to creep in.

The first mistake of the Centre was that in the name of Atmanirbhar Bharat it failed to enter into MoU with foreign vaccine manufacturers in time. Now when it wants to import, the companies are not able to supply. The PM said more vaccines are in pipeline. But none of them will be available in the market before year end.

The State governments too without understanding the gravity of the situation or studying the problems of supply chain, went on demanding that distribution be decentralised since health was State subject. But no officer either told any of the State governments or no government tried to understand the fact that in pandemic situation, health cannot be state subject as it spreads from one place to another and that is why disaster management act has been rightly enforced and under such situation, it is the Centre that has to manage procurement and distribution.

The Centre committed another mistake of creating a competition in procuring vaccine by fixing different rates for States and private hospitals to procure vaccine. This resulted in the companies preferring supply on priority basis to private hospitals since they offered more price.

Even now the PM blames the states saying that it was decentralised because they demanded and is being centralised as they realised their mistake. What was Centre doing all these days if it knew that states were committing a mistake? Why did he not convene a meeting of all State CMs, explain the situation and come up with a policy that was endorsed by all?

Another mistake committed by Centre was that it did not remain aloof from politicking regarding vaccine distribution. It gave priority to States where elections were due and this led to starving other states of supply. If a non-partisan policy was adopted by Centre and if the process of distribution was transparent, many lives could have been saved. Even now the politicking will not end unless the Centre and States sit together and work out a uniform policy of distribution of vaccine.

Another issue is why not supply free vaccine to private hospitals and allow them to charge service charge with a cap as has been announced today? Why should they be asked to procure directly from manufacturers? During second wave the state and centre remained mute spectators when private hospitals fleeced Covid patients. Now again, they want the private hospitals to allow charging higher fees.

Guidelines may say that only Rs 150 above the MRP should be charged but there are many ways for the private hospitals to charge more money in the name of vaccination. It is unfortunate that even in such pandemic situation the Centre and States refuse to arrive at a consensus on such important issues. The virtual meetings the PM had with CMs on Covid never discussed such policy issues. Its time the PM and CMs come to an agreement and put the vaccination drive in fast forward mode.

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