Describing the Central government’s decision of universal vaccination for COVID-19 as “hollow and without substance” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said the decision was a “regrettable show of evasion of responsibility at a time of crisis”.
“Now when the number of cases in the second wave are spiralling like anything, 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,” Ms. Banerjee said in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Chief Minister has also cited her letter of February 24, requesting the Centre to permit the State to allow free vaccination for the people of West Bengal, adding that there was no response from the Centre on the communication.
In the letter, Ms. Banerjee pointed out that the announcement by the Centre does not address major issues like “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”.
She also expressed apprehensions that the announced policy might lead to unscrupulous mechanism in the market, including pricing of vaccines as it appears to be based on market prices which may put the common people under huge financial burden.
The Chief Minister highlighted the shortage of vaccines and called for a “fair, transparent and credible vaccination policy”, which would enable people to get vaccines urgently and at affordable prices.
“More importantly, the supply would also become very erratic because the vaccine manufacturers are hardly prepared to scale up their production capacities to the desired levels to meet the nationwide demand. I would like to mention once again that required vaccines are not available in the market and request that steps may immediately be taken to ensure available of vaccines at the earliest,” she said.
West Bengal which is in middle of a marathon eight-phase Assembly election, has seen a sharp spike in the number of COVID cases and deaths. Vaccination and the related issues of managing the pandemic have become an important poll issue.
Earlier on April 18, Ms Banerjee had written to the Prime Minister on the shortage of medicines, oxygen cylinders and vaccines. The Chief Minister had 5.4 crore doses of vaccines to vaccinate about 2.7 crore people of the State at the earliest.