India’s Minister of Health Dr Harsh Vardhan launched a scathing attack on several states which aren't governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — Punjab, Delhi, Maharashtra, Odisha and Rajasthan - in response to the concerns raised by their state governments about vaccine shortages around the country.
Vardhan said that these states' allegations of doses being in short supply was an attempt to “draw attention” from how slow they've been in rolling out vaccines and he urged them not to politicise a critical health issue.
“Doesn’t it seem evident that these states are trying to draw attention from their poor vaccination efforts by just continuously shifting the goal-posts? Politicising such a public health issue is a damning indictment of certain political leaders who should know better,” Vardhan said.
The minister also underlined that the primary goal of a vaccination drive is “to reduce mortality among the most vulnerable people,” adding: “So long as the supply of vaccines remains limited, there is no option but to prioritise. This is also the established practice worldwide and is well known to all state governments.”
State governments have claimed that they have had to close hundreds of vaccination centres because there are inadequate supplies of COVID-19 vaccines which are being distributed by the federal health ministry under Vardhan.
On Wednesday, Maharashtra's health minister Rajesh Tope said he had 1.3 million doses of Covaxin and Covishield in stock, which would be exhausted in three days, according to estimates. Odisha's health minister Naba Kishore Das claimed on Wednesday that the state has had to shut down more than 700 centres.
Similarly, Delhi's chief Arvind Kejriwal has urged the federal government to open up vaccination to everybody above the age of 18 as the state registered a positivity rate over 6 percent which is its highest in recent months.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to discuss with all states chiefs the COVID-19 situation in their respective state and how the vaccination drive is progressing.
Earlier this week, the federal government said that the next four weeks are “very, very critical” and sought people’s participation to control the second wave of the pandemic.