Vaccines for all?

IFP Editorial: With only two days remaining for the vaccination program of citizens above 45 of age, Manipur is yet to reveal the number of vaccines available with the state.


(PHOTO: Twitter)

Facing criticism over the varying prices of its Covid vaccine, the Serum Institute of India on Wednesday decided to lower the price of Covishield vaccines for states from Rs 400 to Rs 300 per dose. Hours after the registration for vaccination for the 18-44 age group began, SII chairman Adar Poonawalla tweeted, “As a philanthropic gesture on behalf of @SerumInstIndia , I hereby reduce the price to the states from Rs.400 to Rs.300 per dose, effective immediately; this will save thousands of crores of state funds going forward. This will enable more vaccinations and save countless lives”.

Serum Institute of India had offered to sell its vaccine Covishield at Rs 400 per dose to state governments and Rs 600 to private hospitals. Its price for the Centre is Rs 150 per dose. Bharat Biotech has offered to sell Covaxin at Rs 600 per dose to state governments and Rs 1,200 to private hospitals. Its price for the Centre is Rs 150. The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to explain by Thursday the reason for the differential pricing of vaccines in the country.

As India tries to accelerate its massive vaccination programme in the middle of a devastating second Covid-19 wave, ground reports from states indicate a complex set of problems ranging from shortage of doses to glitches on the registration portal to panic and fear of the vaccines running out.

If the initial weeks of vaccination saw a general reluctance among the public, the severity of the pandemic’s second wave has forced them to flock to vaccination centres, flouting the very rules meant to keep them safe. And to top it off, the Centre will open vaccination to everyone above the age of 18 from May 1, even as lakhs of people in the 45-60 and above 60 high-priority age groups still await the jab. With states complaining of vaccine shortage, the Centre on Tuesday released data to say more than one crore doses, to be administered to priority groups, were available with states and 86 lakh more would be distributed over the next three days.

While rich states like Maharashtra can afford to vaccinate its citizens free of cost, it is very difficult for states with small means like Manipur which are already overburdened with fiscal distress and extra expenditure for Covid-19 response in the last financial year. Maharashtra government Wednesday declared that it will provide free Covid vaccination to all citizens aged 18-44. A tweet by CMO Maharashtra read, “Today, the Cabinet under the leadership of CM Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray has decided to provide free COVID-19 vaccination to all the citizens of Maharashtra aged between 18-44years”. On the other hand, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has made a five point request to PM Modi for allocation of vaccines to states in proportion to their active caseload and population and waiver of taxes on vaccines. The Chief Minister N Biren Singh is actively monitoring the preparedness of the state health infrastructure including oxygen supply and ramping up the penalty structure of SOP violations by citizens. After consultations with Covid-19 Consultative Committee, he has conferred with his Cabinet colleagues while also instructing district administrations to prepare for the second wave.

The Covid-19 situation in Manipur is not as disastrous as in Maharashtra, Delhi, Bengaluru and Uttar Pradesh. But the recent surge in Covid-19 cases is indeed a cause for concern. From a two digit figure of 21 positive cases on April 14, the daily surge of Covid-19 positive cases has increased to 259 positive cases on April 28 with 2 more deaths. In view of the second wave of the pandemic, the Manipur government has already closed down the three women markets along with the temporary markets for ten days while allowing the shops and establishments in Imphal core market area to open on roster basis. Night curfew has been imposed from 7 pm to 5 am, while staff attendance in government offices has been restricted to 50 percent. With only two days remaining for the vaccination program of citizens above 45 of age, the state is yet to reveal the number of vaccines available with the state and also the preparedness for mass vaccination from May 1. The state needs to come clean.

EDITORIAL

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First Published:April 29, 2021, 12:33 a.m.

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