Withdraw vaccine policy, differential rates of Covishield: Sonia writes to Modi

Congress chief questions government’s decision to not provide free COVID vaccines to 18-44 age group and allowing Serum Institute to set higher vaccine rate for states and private hospitals

Sonia said the Centre through its new policy and by allowing SII to set varied rates is trying arm-twist the public into paying more for the vaccines

Calling the Centre’s new vaccine policy “arbitrary” and “discriminatory” in nature, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi has demanded its immediate rollback.

Sonia questioned how the government can abdicate its responsibility of providing free vaccines to those in the 18-45 age group as well as allow Serum Institute of India to set differential rates for Covishield, where states and private hospitals have to shell out ₹400 and ₹600 a dose respectively, while the Centre will only have to pay ₹150 per shot.

Asking how “the government of India can permit such brazen profiteering from people’s misery” the Congress chief demanded the Centre to rework its policy and set a uniform price for vaccines.

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India has been severely hit in the second COVID-19 wave, the latest figures showing a relentless surge in numbers with 3.14 lakh infections and 2,104 deaths of COVID-19 patients in a single day. And, the country has been recording the world’s biggest daily spike in COVID infections.

Related news: All adults can register for vaccine from April 24. Here’s how

The Centre on Monday announced that all adults above 18 years can be vaccinated against COVID-19 from May 1 onwards. It also allowed 50 per cent of vaccine supplies to be sold to states and in the open market while reserving the other half for itself.

A day later, the SII, which is producing the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine in India, announced the revised price list of Covishield – ₹400 for states, ₹600 for private hospitals while retaining the earlier price of ₹150 for the Centre.

Incidentally, those between 18 and 44 can only be administered the vaccine once private hospitals or state governments procure it, as the free vaccines are only meant for beneficiaries above 45.

Sonia said the Centre through its new policy and by allowing SII to set varied rates is trying arm-twist the public into paying more for the vaccines, which in turn will “also bleed the finances of state governments”.

“At a time when medical resources are scarce, hospital beds are unavailable, oxygen supply and availability of essential medicine is dwindling rapidly, why is your government allowing a policy that reeks of such insensitivity?” she asked.

Related news: Asking states to pay more for vaccine discriminatory politics

“The policy implies that the government of India has abdicated its responsibility to provide free vaccination for citizens between the age group of 18 and 45 years. This is complete abandonment of the government’s responsibility towards our youth,” she said.

Labelling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent televised address to the nation as a “hollow speech”, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted his stinging rebuke of the government’s handling of the epidemic.

Gandhi, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week and is quarantined in his home, said in his tweet that he continues to see “tragic stories” from different parts of the country.

Also read: At 3.14 lakh cases, India records highest daily COVID spike in the world

“India has not just been hit by the coronavirus crisis but has been battered by the anti-people policies of the government,” he said, adding that the country doesn’t need “hollow speeches and useless festivals”….

What India is in dire need of is a “solution”  to the pandemic, he had tweeted in Hindi. In his address to the nation on Tuesday (April 20), PM Modi had assured the nation of the adequate availability of medical oxygen, hospital beds and vaccines and advised the states to use a lockdown only as the last resort.

Gandhi’s reference to useless festivals was aimed at the government’s four-day “Tika Utsav” to step up vaccine coverage. Earlier too, when the Congress MP from Wayanad, Rahul Gandhi had criticised the government for the “snail’s pace” at which the vaccination programme was moving, the BJP did not take it lying down. They hit back with a question – why has Rahul Gandhi not yet taken the vaccine?

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