States cannot afford to compete among themselves to buy coronavirus vaccines – any more than being forced to buy individual stores of weapons and ammunition in case of an attack by Pakistan – Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Wednesday afternoon.
Mr Kejriwal called on the centre to play its part in the vaccination drive and urgently procure enough doses to inoculate people in the national capital and across the country, rather than leaving it to states to try and negotiate separate deals with manufacturers.
“Why isn’t this country buying vaccines? We can’t leave it to individual states. We are at war against COVID-19. If Pakistan attacks India, will the centre leave states to defend themselves? Will Uttar Pradesh buy its own tanks or Delhi its own guns?” the Chief Minister asked.
“Unlike many other countries, India delayed vaccination by six months. The first vaccine was made by Indians in India. We should have been manufacturing and stocking up since then… if we’d done that, we may have prevented some of the deaths in the second wave,” he added.
The country has been hit hard by the second wave of infections, with more than 3,000 deaths per day since April 28 and over 2,000 a day since April 21.
By contrast, the most deaths in a day in the first wave was less than 1,200.
The second wave has coincided with a worrying dip in vaccinations, as the centre and states go back and forth over the demand and supply of doses.
States insist they do not have enough doses to vaccinate both age groups – 18-44 and over-45 – and the centre insists that they do. This has led to halting of vaccination for the 18-44 group, which government data says accounts for nearly half of all new Covid cases this month.
Under the centre’s new “liberalised” vaccination policy states are now also required to independently source 50 per cent of their vaccines. Delhi reached out to Pfizer and Moderna – neither of which are approved for use in India as yet – but was refused.
The US pharma giants said they would deal only with the centre.
Two weeks ago Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said Bharat Biotech – which manufactures Covaxin – had also refused to supply doses, citing the centre’s directives and limited availability.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said he too had been refused by Pfizer.
“We cannot change what happened but, for the past two months, every state is trying to get its own vaccines. As far as I know, no state has been able to manage a single dose (apart from stocks supplied by the centre). Many states tried but failed…” Mr Kejriwal said.
“This is a time for the country to work together and not for states to compete among themselves for vaccines. I request the Prime Minister – we can’t do the job that is not ours (arranging for vaccines). You get us the vaccines, we will do our job (vaccinating people),” he added.
“We have already lost six months… more lives will be lost if we don’t work together as Team India to defeat coronavirus,” Mr Kejriwal said.