Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vaccine diplomacy policy under which millions of doses of Covishield and Covaxin – the two anti-Covid vaccines manufactured in India – were gifted to several countries. Pointing out the shortages of vaccines in several states amid a spurt of coronavirus cases across the country, Mr Singh said the centre should have prioritised vaccinations of Indians over the “goodwill gesture”.
“…What was the point of gifting 5 crore doses to other countries. What about us? What about Indians? Don’t we get it first? I am not saying don’t give it (vaccines) if you have it, but if you don’t have it, the priority should be (vaccinations of) Indians, not giving the vaccines to others as a goodwill gesture… First give the vaccine to me. I said this when the Prime Minister had the conference the other day…,” the 79-year-old Congress veteran said at NDTV’s Solutions Summit.
India’s vaccine initiative received the praise of the global community, including the World Health Organisation. However, the country’s humanitarian gesture hit a roadblock last month as several states, including worst-hit Maharashtra, reported severe shortages as they planned to ramp up the vaccination drive amid an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases across the country.
“Now they say ramp it (vaccinations) up to two lakhs a day… if I ramp it up, I have one-and-a-half days of supply,” Mr Singh added.
Amarinder Singh also demanded that the centre should let the state governments decide the target groups for the inoculation drive.
“Leave it to the states to decide. I may have a different problem to Delhi and Delhi may have a different problem to Maharashtra. And Maharashtra may be different to Kerala. Let us decide where we require the vaccine,” he said.
Currently, the centre allows vaccinations of those aged 45 or above. Several states including Maharashtra and Delhi have urged the centre to open the inoculation drive to other age groups as well.
Hit by the second Covid wave, India has been witnessing a worrying surge in infections; 2.34 lakh cases in the last 24 hours took the caseload to 1.45 crore total infections. Punjab is one of the 10 states that reported 86 per cent of deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the government data.