Sale of Covaxin at Rs 1050 a dose by Punjab: Union minister accuses state of ‘profiteering’

Reacting to the remarks of Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur where he accused Punjab government of making “profits” by selling the vaccines procured under the State quota to private hospitals, Punjab’s nodal officer for vaccination Vikas Garg on Thursday said “it was a one time measure” and the decision was taken to “enable private hospitals to start vaccination” and to “tackle the pressure [of vaccine requirement] across the State”.

Out of 1.14 lakh Covaxin doses Punjab received on May 27, Punjab government sold 40000 doses, procured at Rs 420 per dose, to over 20 private hospitals for Rs 1060 per dose and the private hospitals in turn reportedly fixed the rate to Rs 1560 per dose for an individual.

The state quota was meant for individuals aged between 18 to 44 with co-morbodities, for construction workers and families of healthcare workers in government vaccination centres (Punjab government has opened vaccination for 18-44 age group only for selected priority groups due to vaccine shortage and not for all yet). The private hospitals however are administrating the Covaxin to anyone above 18.

Thakur on Thursday alleged, “The Punjab government has shown a careless and callous attitude towards the people of the state by charging four times above the basic price of procurement…”

He went on to say, “Punjab Government is hand in glove with private hospitals. They are creating a fale narrative about vaccines scarcity and ensuring lack of proper vaccination facilities at government hospitals. Why should a single dose of the vaccine cost Rs 1560 at a private hospital? Punjab government profits while the poor pay this pandemic premium on vaccines.”

Thakur also said that “Central government has provided over 24 crore vaccines free of cost to the States/UTs during the pandemic period. As of today, over 2 crore vaccines are still available with them. They are administered for free at government hospitals. Instead of facilitating the vaccination process, Punjab Government is looting the people at the time of this pandemic. Without doubt black marketing is happening right under their nose.”

Garg, on the other hand, said, “When the decision [to sell vaccines to private hospitals] was taken, only two private hospitals, the Fortis and Max Hospital Mohali, were carrying out the vaccination in the State. In rest of Punjab, there was no vaccination at private hospitals. It was decided that private hospitals should be given small quantities of doses to start vaccination. It was a one time measure. Even in the file, it is [mentioned that] decision is one time. It is not like that we have to give vaccines to private hospitals on a regular basis.”

Pointing out that the private hospitals were initially “hesitant” to start vaccination, but when we made them place orders, they were given a long delivery schedule”, Garg added, “Small quantities of vaccines have been given to 20 to 25 private hospitals. Total vaccine given to private hospitals is 40000 doses. It was one time meaure and it has ended. Now, no private hospitals would be given any vaccines. Now they have started vaccination and they will purchase Covaxin directly from Bharat Biotech at a cost of Rs 1050 per dose.”

Asserting that decision was taken to “tackle the pressure from across Punjab”, Garg said, “What wrong was done if 40000 doses out of 1.14 lakh doses were given to private hospitals where anyone who can afford can get vaccinated.”

Garg, meanwhile, also said that the stock of 4.29 lakh Covishield vaccine doses had exhausted by May 27 when the State received 1.14 lakh doses of Covaxin. “The State quota of Covaxin for June is also around 1.14 lakh doses which would reach in batches,” he added.

As per Centre’s vaccination policy that came into affect from May 1, the union health ministry will supply vaccines free of cost to states for 45+ population but for 18–44 age group, the State governments and private hospitals have to buy doses directly from manufacturers.

Source link