NEW DELHI: Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, and Jharkhand flagged shortage of vaccine as the country is set to begin the third phase of vaccination on May 1 that is expected to cover the entire population above 18 years.
The Health Ministers of these states are reported to have informed their inability to begin the inoculation due to inadequate supply of vaccine doses.
Rajasthan Health Minister, Raghu Sharma, claimed that the Covishield manufacturer Serum Institute of India had not given assurance of the vaccine supply before May 15.
The Health Minister also asked about the procedures if the states want to procure the vaccine directly and said that they are ready to pay but the rates should be uniform.
Meanwhile, the Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday clarified that the Government of India will continue giving vaccine doses from its 50 per cent quota to the states and UTs for free.
These vaccines shall continue to be administered by states and union territories. The clarification came after concerns were raised from various quarters including Congress.
He said the balance 50 per cent quota grants flexibility for states. Many states had requested that the vaccination process be opened up for them. Now, this balance 50 per cent quota shall give them the freedom to vaccinate groups that they deem as a priority.
"It is a fact that health is a state subject, where the Centre essentially coordinates and facilitates the states. After we received requests from nearly all states to liberalise the vaccine distribution policy and pass on the control to the states, we decided to go ahead," Harsh Vardhan said.
The balance 50 per cent quota is also open for the corporate and private sector to pool in their resources so that the combined effort of Team India can be deployed to vaccinate every adult in the earliest possible time, he said.
The states, therefore, as per their own priority and commitments, have to vaccinate only those remaining people who have not been administered vaccines either through the GOI free route or through the private route.
"The 50 per cent quota, that is a Government of India's pricing, is for free distribution of vaccines and distribution of all of this will be done through the states only. Hence the allegation that the Centre is getting it cheap and States are not is patently false," he further said.
"I see no reason why the states must complain now. Under the new policy, they have the liberty to directly procure it from the manufacturers and even negotiate prices based on volumes as it will also cut the delays. The states need to decide when, how, how much and to whom. This is exactly what the Centre has done by easing the process," the Union Health Minister said.