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Health minister condemns ‘shameless politics’ on vaccines

If vaccine supply is still an issue, it's the fault of the states, Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said today, hitting out at the detractors

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India’s vaccination drive has picked up pace amid the central government’s efforts, Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said this afternoon, hitting out at critics. In a series of sharp comments on Twitter, without naming any political leaders, the health minister also urged “state leaders to spend more energies in planning and not in creating panic”.

A new vaccine policy was implemented on Yoga Day — 21 June — as the government took back total control of the vaccination drive “to give free doses to states”. In the same week, over 3.91 crore doses were given to people across the country, the Health Ministry said, calling it “a milestone”.

If vaccine supply is still an issue, it’s the fault of the states, the health minister underlined today.

“I’m seeing irresponsible statements from various leaders regarding (the) largest vaccine drive. Stating facts below so people can judge the intentions of these leaders. After GoI (government of India) provided 75% of vaccines available for free, vaccination speed picked up and 11.50 crore doses were given in June,” the health minister said in a series of sharp comments on Twitter.

A total of 12 crore doses will be given to the states in July, he said in another post, adding that the information was shared with states two weeks in advance. The union minister said further that the allocation for private hospitals would happen separately.

However, in a 26 June affidavit in Supreme Court, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had said 12 crore doses for July included three crore doses for private hospitals.

The health minister further insisted on better planning by the state governments. “If there are issues in states, it shows that they need to better plan their vaccination drives. Intra-state planning and logistics are the responsibility of the states. I request these leaders to desist from their shameless urge to play politics even in the midst of a pandemic,” he tweeted.

The health minister concluded by saying: “If these leaders are aware of these facts and are still giving such statements, I consider it most unfortunate. If they don’t know, they need to focus on governance. Will again request state leaders to spend more energies in planning and not in creating panic.”

In an affidavit in Supreme Court, the government on Saturday had said 10 crore doses of Serum Institute of India’s and two crore doses of Bharat Biotech’s had been assigned to the states and union territories for the month of July.

This makes it less than 40 lakh doses a day, which is significantly lower than the target of about 1 crore doses. The union government’s statement raises questions about the country meeting vaccine targets in order to avoid a third wave of Covid-19.

The government aims to vaccinate all adults — about 108 crore people — by the end of this year. So far, over 33 vaccine doses have been given.

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