Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Wednesday said that “useless statements” related to Covid-19 vaccine shortages in states have been causing panic among residents. Mandaviya took over the ministry from Harsh Vardhan after being inducted into the Cabinet on July 7.

India’s immunisation drive against the coronavirus disease has been hurt as several states have complained about shortages of vaccine doses in recent months. In view of the scarcity, many vaccination centres in various states, including Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, were closed on Tuesday.

The vaccination rate has also slowed down across the country. An average of 62.1 lakh doses of Covid-19 vaccines were administered daily in the last week of June, data on the government’s CoWIN portal showed. The number dropped to 41.8 lakh in the first few days of July. The daily average dropped to 35 lakh between July 5 and July 11.

In a series of tweets in Hindi, Mandaviya said that he had been informed about the shortages through letters from various state governments and statements from politicians. “This situation can be better understood by an actual analysis of the facts,” he said.

The health minister said that states had been informed about the available doses for the month of July on June 19. After this, on June 27 and on July 13, the state governments were also informed about the “batch-wise availability of vaccines” for everyday use during the first and second fortnight of July.

“If the central government is already providing this information in advance and yet we see mismanagement and long queues of vaccine beneficiaries, then it is very clear what the problem is and who is behind it,” Mandaviya said in a veiled attack on the Opposition.

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“The leaders who make statements that create confusion and concern in the media need to introspect whether they have become so far removed from the process of governance that they are not aware of the information already provided about the vaccine supply,” the health minister said.

Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge cast doubts on the government’s claim that it would vaccinate all adults by the end of this year. “For that, 80 lakh doses need to be given daily,” the Congress leader said in a tweet on Wednesday. “Yet, only 34 lakh doses are being given daily. Thanks to Modi Govt’s [government’s] failure, the 3rd wave may hit India very badly.”

In a series of tweets, the Congress leader flagged shortages of vaccines in several states.

Kharge’s colleague in the Congress, Rahul Gandhi also attacked the Centre. “Rhetorics are there, not vaccines,” he said in tweet in Hindi.

Vaccine shortages

On Tuesday, Odisha Health Secretary PK Mohapatra said the immunisation drive was stopped in 24 out of 30 districts, adding that the next consignment of the Covishield vaccine was expected to arrive on July 15.

Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Tuesday said that the state government could vaccinate 15 lakh residents daily, but it was only inoculating 2 lakh to 3 lakh beneficiaries because of shortages.

Former NITI Aayog chairperson Arvind Panagariya on Sunday noted the slow pace of vaccinations in the country. “India’s current vaccination rate of 3 million to 4 million per day is simply not good enough,” he tweeted. “We need to up our game to achieve daily rate of at least 5 to 6 million jabs. Not clear whether the cause is hesitation or insufficient production.”

Meanwhile, India on Wednesday morning recorded 38,792 new coronavirus cases, pushing the infection tally in the country to 3,09,46,074, since the pandemic broke out in January last year. This is a jump from Tuesday’s number of new cases, which was 32,906. The toll climbed by 624 to 4,11,408.