Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday wrote to his counterparts in 11 states ruled by non-NDA parties to urge them to put up a joint effort to nudge the central government to procure the vaccines and distribute them free of cost.
“It is important that vaccines should be provided free of cost considering it as a public good, the access to which shall be denied to none due to lack of financial wherewithal,” his letter said, underscoring that if the burden to procure the vaccine is left entirely on states, their fiscal situation will be affected.
“When the nation is passing through the second surge, it is unfortunate the Centre is absolving itself of its bounden duty to provide adequate supply of vaccine. The impact of the second surge has been unprecedented, putting all of us in a state of alarm. Experts have warned about a third wave also. This necessitates our heightened preparation and vigil to meet that eventuality too,” he said.
Vijayan sent the letters to chief ministers of Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Delhi and Punjab.
His letter comes against the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s sharp observation that there should be only one price for Covid-19 vaccines across the nation. “In a national crisis, the central government should procure vaccines for the entire country. States are left in a lurch. You should tell them that we will negotiate globally and procure vaccines for them so that there is clarity,” a three-member bench of justice DY Chandrachud, justice LN Rao and justice S Ravindra Bhat told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Monday. The Centre had announced a three-tier price structure for vaccines produced in the country. that gave it access to vaccines for ₹150 but others – states and hospitals – have to pay up to ₹1,200 for Covaxin.
“It is learnt that the Union government has taken a stand that the states should resort to their own measures to procure vaccines. The supply of the vaccine is scarce as compared to the demand for the same,” he said, underscoring that states have to scale up the number of people who have received vaccination since herd immunity will be effective if only a substantial chunk of the population is vaccinated.
As on date, only 3.1% of the people have been administered two doses of Covid-19 vaccine. Vaccine manufacturing companies are “looking for financial gains by exploiting the scarce supply situation” and foreign companies are unwilling to enter into agreements with states for procurement.
The chief minister also pointed out that the state had placed an order for 10 million vaccines last month but received only 8.84 lakh doses. Chief minister Vijayan has written four letters to seek vaccines and oxygen after assuming power for the second time.