‘Allegations of vaccine shortage are utterly baseless’: Health Minister Harsh Vardhan

In response to some state government’s writing to the central government regarding COVID19 vaccine stocks drying up, the Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has clarified there is no vaccine shortage. He has termed these attempts as means to distract attention from the states’ failures and spreading panic among the people.

Gaon Connection
| Updated: April 7th, 2021

Harsh Vardhan, the Union health minister. Photo: @DrHVoffice/Twitter

The Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has come down heavily on the Maharashtra government by calling its response to tackling the pandemic a “misgovernance and utter casual approach… in battling the virus”. In his statement issued today, Vardhan has said “the lackadaisical attitude of the state government [Maharashtra] has singularly bogged down the entire country’s efforts to fight the virus.”

“Maharashtra Government needs to do a lot more to control the pandemic and the Central Government will help them in all possible ways. But focusing all their energies on playing politics and spreading lies to create panic is not going to help the people of Maharashtra,” Union health minister said.

Earlier today, on April 7, Rajesh Tope, the health minister of Maharashtra, the state worst affected by COVID-19, said the state has vaccine ‘stocks to last only 3 days’. He said he has communicated his concerns to Vardhan and has requested a supply of four million doses per week.

Meanwhile, in her letter to the Union health minister today, Priyanka Chaturvedi, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra, said: “We need the Union Government to release more vaccines to Maharashtra in time so that we can keep up the Government of India’s drive to safeguard as many citizens as possible.”

“The speed of vaccination and the volume also means that many districts have run out of vaccines and other districts have stocks that would last only for 48 hours,” she wrote in her letter. 

Also Read: ‘Vaccine is the basic right of every Indian’: Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi writes to the health minister Harsh Vardhan on COVID19 vaccination

However, the Union health minister has dismissed these allegations of vaccine shortage as “utterly baseless”. “I have seen statements made by public representatives in Maharashtra about shortage of vaccines. This is nothing but an attempt to divert attention from Maharashtra government’s repeated failures to control the spread of pandemic,” said Vardhan.

In his statement, the Union health minister has gone on to point out that Maharashtra has vaccinated only 86 per cent of health workers with first dose. The equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 72 per cent and 64 per cent. On the other hand, 10 states/Union Territories have done more than 90 per cent. 

Maharashtra has vaccinated just 41 per cent of healthcare workers with a second dose. Equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 41 per cent and 27 per cent. There are 12 Indian states/UTs that have done more than 60 per cent, reads Vardhan’s statement.

“Doesn’t it seem evident that these states are trying to divert attention from their poor vaccination efforts by just continuously shifting the goal-posts?” he asked. “Politicizing such a public health issue is a damning indictment of certain political leaders who should know better,” he added.

Two days back, on April 5, Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had written to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi “to further lower the age group eligible for vaccination to 25 years old to curb the intensity of the rising cases in the state.” He had also requested for additional vaccine doses for Maharashra, which is worst afected due to COVID-19.

Also Read: Lower COVID-19 vaccination age to 25, Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray requests PM Modi

A COVID vaccination centre in Odisha. Photo: @DistAdmKeonjhar/twitter

Commenting on lowering the eligible age for corona vaccine, the Union health minister said: “The vaccination strategy has been drawn up after extensive deliberations and consultations in partnership with all State governments. So long as the supply of vaccines remains limited, there is no option but to prioritize,”

“When states ask to open up vaccine supplies to everyone over 18, we must presume that they have done saturation coverage of healthcare workers, frontline workers and senior citizens. But the facts are altogether different,” he added. 

Maharashtra is not the only state that has written to the Centre pointing out vaccine stocks running dry. Yesterday, April 6, the Odisha government shot off a letter to the central government informing that it has nil stock of Covishield vaccine in all regional and district vaccine stores. In another three days, there will be a stock out of Covishield vaccine in the entire state, it said.

Latest news reports point out that Odisha had to shut over 600 vaccination centres today due to shortage of Covid vaccines. Reports claim that 1,472 centres were opened a couple of days ago in a bid to ramp up the inoculation across the state. The number of centres was brought down to 1,103 yesterday (April 6) and around 800 today (April 7) as the state is facing a shortage of vaccine stock.

Today, Naba Kishore Das, the state health minister has written to the Union health minister seeking 2.5 million doses of COVID19 vaccine.

Also Read: COVID19 second wave: Several states in India reportedly have limited vaccine stocks. Is there a vaccine shortage?

Meanwhile, some reports also claim that Chhattisgarh ran out of vaccines on April 5. But, the Union health minister has termed  these as “comments that are intended to spread misinformation and panic on vaccination.” 

“I would again like to stress to all States that the Central Government is doing everything it can to help them,” Vardhan assured.