Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has written to fellow Chief Ministers from other states urging them to join him in advocating for centralised procurement of vaccines.
“After the Union Government announced the Phase 3 pf vaccine policy and allowed for above 18 years and opened procurement to State governments and private sector, there has been great demand for vaccination from the citizens. Many states have floated global tenders for vaccine procurement. However, it is quite clear that global vaccine manufacturers are looking forward to the Union Government for clearances and assurances,” writes Patnaik.
He further explains, “They are unwilling to get into supply contracts with the State governments. While the domestic vaccine manufacturers are having supply constraints and are not able to commit required supplies.”
Patnaik says that under these circumstances “the best option available is for the Government of India to centrally procure the vaccines and distribute it among the States, so that our citizens are vaccinated at the earliest.”
However, Patnaik also advocates for a decentralized execution of the vaccination program saying, “States should be allowed flexibility to determine their own mechanisms to ensure universal vaccination.” He gave the example of hilly areas where online registration is often not possible due to poor internet connectivity, which necessitates the intervention of the state government to ensure even the most socio-economically backward tribal communities are not left out of the vaccination drive.
The Odisha CM’s letter may be read here:
It is noteworthy that the Centre had allowed States to float global tenders and make arrangements for vaccine procurement. However, many states have been struggling to organise vaccines this way, and economically backward states have suffered the worst.
Mizoram’s plea for free vaccines for economically constrained states
Just yesterday, Mizoram CM Zoramthanga had written to the PM asking for free vaccines to be provided to 11 special category states which face severe economic constraints. “The pandemic puts serious stress on the resources of the country and this has far more severe impacts on small states with small resources like Mizoram. On top of this, we are now required to buy the vaccines for 18-44 years age group which puts more stress on our meagre resources,” CM Zoramthanga wrote in his letter that he shared on his official Twitter account tagging the PM, the Home Minister, and Chief Ministers of other North Eastern states. Zoramthanga requested that the Government of India “buy the entire vaccine requirements and make equitable distributions to all states.”
Humble request for special category states like us to be provided with vaccines free of charge by the Govt of India; to save our stressed economic resources!@narendramodi @AmitShah @himantabiswa @Neiphiu_Rio @NBirenSingh @SangmaConrad @PSTamangGolay @BjpBiplab @PemaKhanduBJP pic.twitter.com/W4cGRokZ4e
— Zoramthanga (@ZoramthangaCM) June 1, 2021
Mamata Banerjee on vaccine allocation and procurement challenges
Previously, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had also written to the Prime Minister asking him to prioritise vaccination for Central and State government employees saying, “They have been forced to face people, to mingle with the public for discharge of their duties. In the process, they are running the risk of being affected by Covid 19. It is important that they are vaccinated without delay and irrespective of age groups.” She had asked for at least 20 lakh doses to be sent to her state for the purpose.
In fact, Banerjee has been very vocal about price disparities in vaccines as this has posed a huge challenge for procurement by states. “Every Indian needs free vaccine, regardless of age, caste, creed, location. GoI must fix ONE price for Covid vaccine irrespective of who pays— Centre or the States,” she had tweeted.
One nation, one party, one leader shouts BJP all the time but to save lives they can’t have one price for vaccine.
Every Indian needs free vaccine, regardless of age, caste, creed, location. GoI must fix ONE price for Covid vaccine irrespective of who pays— Centre or the States.
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) April 22, 2021
It is noteworthy that Covid-19 cases had shot through the roof in West Bengal after the conduct of the mammoth eight-phase Bengal Assembly Elections, a decision widely perceived to be driven by BJP’s single-minded desire to come to power in the state.
That’s not all. A Supreme Court Bench of Justices Chandrachud, Ravindra Bhat and L Nageswara Rao that is hearing a suo motu petition on Covid-19, In Re Distribution of Essential Services and Supplies During Pandemic, posed some serious questions to the Centre on its vaccine policy. “We are not changing the policy. We are asking you to please wake up and smell the coffee and see what’s happening across the country,” Justice Chandrachud had reportedly remarked. Justice Bhat also intervened and reportedly asked Tushar Mehta, “The only thing we want to address is the dual pricing policy. You are asking the States to pick up and compete with each other.”