Can’t start vaccine drive from May 1 due to shortage, say 4 non-BJP-ruled states

Health ministers of Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan, via joint virtual press conference, accused the Centre of bias against Congress-ruled states

Covid vaccine
The four Congress-ruled states also said they were short of medical oxygen and essential antiviral drug like remdesivir, which is necessary to treat COVID patients.

Even before the expanded COVID vaccination drive for all adults takes off on May 1, four states — ruled by non-BJP governments — have expressed their inability to provide the doses citing non-availability of jabs with the manufacturer till May 15.

Health ministers of Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan held a joint virtual press conference to announce their decision. The health ministers also accused the Union government of bias against Congress-ruled states.

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Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma said, “The Serum Institute told us they need time till May 15 to fulfill orders placed by the Central government. We want to know the process for procuring vaccines directly. We have a population of 3.13 crore people in the 18-45 age group who need vaccination. The Centre should tell us how to vaccinate them all?”


Sharma said Rajasthan is ready to pay for doses, provided the rates are uniform. He wanted the Union Health Ministry to tell Serum (makers of Covishield vaccine) and Bharat Biotech (Covaxin) to “supply a specified number of doses to the states”.

Rajasthan and Jharkhand states’ charge that the Centre is discriminating against opposition-ruled states did not find support in Chhattisgarh Health Minister T S Singh Deo, who said that Assam (ruled by the BJP) too tried to place orders for vaccines, but was told to do so in June.

Jharkhand health minister Banna Gupta accused the Centre of “hijacking doses” and leaving very little for the states. “How can we inoculate all adults starting May 1?” Congress is sharing power in Jharkhand with Hemant Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

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Punjab health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said the highest positivity rate is his state si among the 30 to 48-year-olds. “The situation is alarming, to say the least. We are ready to pay, but the Centre must ensure we get the number of doses we need,” Sidhu said.

According to the Union Health Ministry data, Punjab has about 5 lakh doses, Jharkhand 7 lakh doses while Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan have 4 and 9 lakh doses left respectively.

The four Congress-ruled states also said they were short of medical oxygen and essential antiviral drug like remdesivir, which is necessary to treat COVID patients.

The Union government last week agreed to vaccinate all in the age group of 18-45 years, but refused to pay for it. The Centre said, “States will have to arrange for vaccinating people in the age group of 18-45 years. States must buy the vaccine from the vaccine manufacturer.”

Earlier, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan tried to address states’ concerns about vaccine availability. “We need a greater degree of shared idealism. While the dreaded disease is spreading like a tsunami, it was critical to ease the controls and allow a free hand to the state governments as well as the private sector.”

India so far has recorded over 1.69 crore positive cases, out of which, 1.40 crore have successfully recovered and 1,92,311 have died. In the past 24 hours, 3,49,691 new cases, 2,17,113 fresh recoveries and 2,767 deaths have been reported. Currently, the total number of active cases across the country is 12,9811.