Prime Minister Narendra Modi has turned down a proposal to vaccinate all MPs and MLAs on a priority basis, saying it will send a “very bad signal” to the people.
At the meeting between the prime minister and the chief ministers on 11 January, Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy had demanded that MPs and MLAs must be given Covid-19 vaccine on a priority basis as they, too, are in the frontline in tackling the virus and they have to interact with people in their constituencies.
Refusing to entertain such an exemption for the elected representatives, he said in his concluding speech at the end of the meeting, “All these demands will send a very bad message. It will look like the government is not worried about the common people but is busy trying to cater to lawmakers.”
The demand for vaccination of lawmakers came as Parliament as well as state assemblies are set to hold their budget sessions in the next few weeks.
The issue about cost-burden of the vaccines was raised by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The Prime Minister Modi replied that the cost of vaccination of 30 million healthcare and frontline workers will be borne by the Central government.
The Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers are expected to meet again towards the end of this month or early February to discuss the modalities and cost sharing issues for the vaccines required for the remaining 270 million people in the priority list. “There will be another meeting to discuss about the expenses required to inoculate senior citizens and those with comorbidities,” said a senior official.
Centre will bear cost of 1st phase of vaccination: Modi
The Centre will bear the entire cost of vaccinating 30 million health care and frontline workers — employees across government departments, the police and civic bodies — at the start of the world’s biggest immunisation drive against the coronavirus disease, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on 11 January.
According officials who did not want to be named, the cost for this phase could be around ₹10,000 crore.
Modi hailed the two made-in-India vaccines that have received emergency use authorisation from the Drug Controller General of India — Serum Institute of India’s Covisheld and Bharat Biotech International’s Covaxin — as a matter of pride for India because the country doesn’t have to depend on expensive, imported antidotes to the viral disease.
In his last meeting by video link with state chief ministers five days before the vaccination campaign gets underway, Modi said some more vaccines are in the pipeline and expected to arrive by the time India starts inoculating senior citizens and those with comorbidities.
He rebutted past criticism that India’s progress towards the vaccination drive had been slow. He cautioned states not to let rumours and misinformation to gain currency; many vested interest groups or even corporate rivals may try to derail India’s vaccination programme.