The price of vaccines should be the same for the Centre and the states and a higher price cannot be passed onto states, which are already hugely cash strapped, the Congress said today, attacking the Centre over the vaccine policy it announced yesterday for 18 to 45-year-olds. “We have no problem in vaccine manufacturers in making profits, but the Centre cannot abdicate its responsibility,” said former union minister P Chidambaram, adding, “You want one nation one market etc.
Why can’t we have one nation one price?”
Under the new policy, vaccine makers will supply 50 per cent of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory-released doses to the Government of India and will be free to supply the rest to state governments and the open market.
But they have to announce the price for states and open market before May 1, the government has said — a move that has opened up a debate over the pricing issue.
Congress’s Rahul Gandhi has questioned why 18 to 45-year-olds will not get free vaccine.
“No free vaccines for 18-45 yr olds. Middlemen brought in without price controls. No vaccine guarantee for weaker sections. GOI’s Vaccine Discrimination – Not Distribution Strategy,” he said in a tweet.
“States already way down by shrinking GST revenues, lower tax devolution, reduced grants-in-aid & increased borrowing would’ve to bear this addl burden. Meanwhile, nobody knows where the thousands of crores of rupees collected under PM CARES being deployed,” Mr Chidambaram and Randeep Surjewala tweeted.
The Centre had opened up vaccination for younger people yesterday amid an unprecedented spike in infection that has been sweeping the country. Unlike last year, the younger population has been particularly vulnerable to the mutant strains that are being held partially responsible for the second wave.
Top experts of the government have named vaccination as one of the three big weapons to contain the contagion. There has also been considerable pressure from the states, opposition parties – including Congress — and the civil society to allow vaccination for the younger population.
While vaccines may not be 100 per cent effective in staving off an infection, they can significantly lower the risks, eliminating in most cases any need for oxygen, drugs or hospitalisation, doctors have said.
This could be invaluable advantage in a situation where 25 lakh cases were added over just 15 days, threatening to overwhelm healthcare facilities in parts of the country. A number of states are scrambling to organise more hospital bed, and have sent SOS to the Centre for oxygen and supplies of drugs like Remdesivir.