Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday hit out at the Centre’s policy on Covid vaccines, terming it “hollow”. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she said there was “Covid vaccine shortage” in her state and added that the Centre’s policy did not address the “key issues” and instead it indulged in “empty rhetoric”.
Banerjee also criticised the Centre’s move to introduce vaccines in the open market and its directive to the states to deal directly with the manufacturers. She said that this could lead to “price fluctuation” as a result of which the common people would have to bear the consequences. “More importantly, the supply would also become erratic because the vaccine manufacturers are barely prepared to scale up their production capacities to meet the nationwide demand,” she added.
Urging the PM to “maintain fairness” in the vaccine policy, she wrote, “…the Centre announced the much-delayed ‘universal’ vaccine policy which appears to be hollow, without substance and a regrettable show of evasion of responsibility by the Central Government at a time of crisis.”
The CM claimed, “The (Centre’s vaccine policy) announcement does not address major issues such as ensuring the quality, efficacy, stable flow of supply of required number of vaccines by the manufacturers and also the price at which vaccines are to be purchased by the states.”
Reminding the PM of her February 24 letter in which she had sought his intervention to allow West Bengal to purchase vaccines directly with the state resources and distribute it free, she wrote, “Now when the number of Covid cases is spiralling in the second wave, the Centre has chosen to tactically indulge in empty rhetoric and shy away from its responsibility for making available vaccines to the people of the country.”
Mamata also mentioned the “scarcity” of medicines used in the treatment of Covid-19. She urged the Centre to increase supply of Remdesivir and Tocilizumab. She said, “We need around 6,000 vials of Remdesivir and 1,000 vials of Tocilizumab daily. However, at present only 1,000 vials of Remdesivir are available daily (in Bengal) and no fresh supply of Tocilizumab is coming. Kindly see to it that the authorities concerned step up their efforts to ensure steady supply of these essential medicines as soon as possible.”
Calling the Narendra Modi-led dispensation a government of “monumental incompetence”, Banerjee, who addressed three rallies in Murshidabad on Tuesday, said that the Centre’s decision to export Covid-19 vaccines to other countries has resulted in the “depletion” of India’s vaccine reserves.
The TMC chief also alleged that such an attempt by the PM to “boost his image” has resulted in many states, including West Bengal, Maharashtra and the national Capital Delhi, facing a “vaccine crunch”.
“The Prime Minister said Covid vaccine will be available in the open market. Where is that open market? You have already sent a large chunk of vaccines to foreign countries,” she said, adding “We are facing a deficit in vaccines due to the Centre’s faulty planning.”