Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday said the Centre must take the lead in procuring COVID-19 vaccines, and not leave it to the states to procure their own supplies.
The best way to “protect our people against future waves” of COVID-19 is to centrally procure the shots and decentralise the execution of the vaccination drive, he said in a letter to his counterparts across the country.
Patnaik said the pandemic had presented the country with its greatest challenge since the independence struggle and urged all states to come together in a “spirit of cooperative federalism” to tackle it.
“No state is safe unless all the states adopt vaccination as the top-most priority and execute it on war-footing. But this cannot be a battle among the states to compete against each other to procure vaccines,” Patnaik said, referring to Phase 3 of the Centre’s vaccine policy, which allows vaccination of all those above 18 years of age and lets states and private hospitals procure doses.
“However, it is quite clear that the global vaccine manufacturers are looking forward to the Union government for clearances and assurances. They are unwilling to get into supply contract with the state governments. While the domestic vaccine manufacturers are having supply constraints and are not able to commit required supplies,” he said.
“Under the circumstances, the best option available is for the Government of India to centrally procure the vaccines and distribute them among the states. At the same time, the execution of the vaccination programme has to be decentralised and states allowed the flexibility to determine their own mechanisms.”
Patnaik’s letter comes days after Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to 11 of his non-BJP counterparts, seeking a united effort to press the Centre to procure COVID-19 vaccines and ensure free universal vaccination.
West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee, who is currently involved in a major political battle with the Centre, on Wednesday acknowledged the receipt of the letters.
“Centre must give the vaccines to the state and they must procure the vaccine for the state government. And they must give it free of cost to every state to cover the entire Indian population. On this myself, Naveen Patnaik, Kerala chief minister and Arvind [Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi], everyone is together,” Banerjee said.