From Tikka Utsav to vaccine drought
IFP Editorial: The beleaguered Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to face more international embarrassment over his vaccine policy soon.
Even as BJP leaders continue to claim that the massive international support in terms of Covid-19 aid is because of ‘Vaccine Maitri’ mission launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the first wave, there is still no clarity in terms of adequate supply from the vaccine manufacturers, Indian companies or international in the immediate future, to meet the requirements of the country’s vast population.
Vaccine Maitri was a humanitarian initiative undertaken by the Indian government to provide COVID-19 vaccines to countries around the world. Indian government had started providing vaccines since 20 January 2021. As of 9 April 2021, India had delivered around 64.5 million doses of vaccines to 85 countries.
The opposition has been lambasting the Modi government on an erroneous vaccine policy, which failed to place vaccine orders in advance with the manufacturers and of posing as world leaders in the Pharma sector or vaccine production while neglecting the vaccine requirement of the country.
Now, both Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech is having problems on speedy production of Covishield and Covaxin to meet the urgent requirements as a result of the increasing demand after the deadly second wave. Yet, the BJP continues to hail the Vaccine Maitri mission which is yet to pay dividends in terms of vaccine supply.
Yes, we are getting international Covid aid in terms of Oxygen plants or concentrators or cylinders or ventilators. But, it is for fighting the impact of the pandemic while the question of vaccine supply is still in limbo.
The beleaguered Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to face more international embarrassment over his vaccine policy soon.
We heard in the grapevine that the Central government has asked states, including Manipur, to float global and procure vaccines from the international market and we did not believe it. We wondered, what would small and poor states like Manipur do?
As predicted, rich states floated global tenders for supply of vaccines which found no takers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s controversial decision to let 29 Indian states individually buy vaccines from global producers boomeranged.
Global pharma companies like Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson do not feel the need to negotiate separately with each Indian state. They have conveyed their preference to deal with a single entity. In effect, they want the Centre to aggregate the requirements of the Indian states and negotiate on their behalf.
The first indication came when global bids invited by states like Maharashtra did not receive any response. US vaccine maker Moderna told Punjab that it would prefer to talk to the Centre directly, rather than respond to a state tender. There is still the question of differential pricing.
The Supreme Court had questioned the differential pricing of the vaccine. While the price per vaccine was Rs 300 for the states, it was Rs 150 for the Centre. All this is happening in the midst of news that the Serum Institute of India CEO has said that it will not be able to supply the next batch until July.
The United States talks about sharing its Astra-Zeneca vaccine stock with India, but who knows when it will arrive.
One still remembers that the Narendra Modi government announced the ‘Tikka Utsav’ even as the vaccine stock was very low in the country and again mass vaccination for the age group of 18-44 from May 1, after it woke up from the election frenzy.
Many states could not start the vaccination for 18-44 age group and Manipur’s drive started only on May 18, and that too with limited vaccine stock.
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.
Meanwhile, the pandemic situation in the state is becoming grave and graver day by day not only in terms of steep hike in daily Covid numbers and deaths but of hospitals running out of beds and oxygen.
We would like to ask the state government how it is planning to procure more vaccine doses and speed up the vaccination process to check the growing number of infection.