The Centre on Friday told Parliament that it couldn’t give a fixed timeline for the completion of the Covid-19 vaccination drive at present, but expected all adults to be inoculated by December this year.
Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar was responding to questions from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Trinamool Congress MP Mala Roy in the Lok Sabha.
The MPs had asked the Centre if it proposed to complete the vaccination drive by December. They also put forth questions about the projected estimate of vaccine availability from August to December, the estimated production capacity of domestic vaccine manufacturers, the shots that the government was planning to import and the amount spent on vaccination so far.
The leaders also asked if the government had taken note of delays in signing buying agreements with vaccine manufacturers, which was hurting the pace of the inoculation drive.
Pawar said in her written reply that vaccination was an ongoing and dynamic process, being monitored by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19. “In view of the dynamic and evolving nature of Covid-19 pandemic, no fixed timeline at present can be indicated for the completion of vaccination drive, however, it is expected that beneficiaries aged 18 years and above will be vaccinated by December 2021,” she added.
Answering the MPs’ second question, the minister said 135 crore vaccine doses were expected to be available between August and December. Pawar added that the Centre had spent Rs 9,725.15 crore on the Covid vaccination programme.
The minister denied that there were delays in signing agreements with domestic vaccine makers. “Advance payments have also been made to manufacturers for the supply orders placed with them,” she added.
- As states complain of vaccine shortages, health minister says ‘useless statements’ are causing panic
- ‘No increase in vaccines, only ministers’: Congress, Left criticise Cabinet reshuffle amid Covid
The Congress criticised the Centre for its response, saying that its lies had been exposed. “Government says 1) No fixed Timeline can be indicated for completion of vaccine drive,” Congress leader Randeep Surjewala tweeted. “2) Only 9,725 Crore spent on Covid-19 vaccination drive against budget of [Rs] 35,000 crore.”
The Opposition has repeatedly criticised the Centre about the shortcomings in the vaccination programme amid the looming threat of the third wave of the pandemic.
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.
Several states have complained about the shortages of vaccine over the past few months but the Centre has dismissed these concerns. On July 14, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said that “useless statements” related to Covid-19 vaccine shortages in the states had been causing panic among residents.
On Friday, India reported 35,342 new Covid-19 cases, taking the tally to 3,12,93,062 since the pandemic broke out in January last year. The toll rose to 4,19,470 with 483 more deaths in a span of 24 hours.