Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi after Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that the Centre had never spoken about vaccinating the entire population against the coronavirus.
The former Congress chief pointed out that the government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has made three different statements on vaccination, asking the prime minister to clear his stance.
“PM – Everyone will get vaccine,” tweeted Gandhi. “BJP in Bihar elections – Everyone in Bihar will get free vaccine. Now, GOI [Government of India] – Never said everyone will get vaccine. Exactly what does the PM stand by?”
At a press conference on Tuesday, the Centre had said that it many not be necessary to vaccinate India’s entire population against the coronavirus if a “critical mass of people” are given a shot to break the chain of virus transmission.
“I just want to make it clear that the government has never spoken about vaccinating the entire country,” Bhushan added. “We should discuss these scientific issues based only on factual information.”
Ahead of the Bihar Assembly elections, the BJP had promised free vaccination to all the people of the state in its election manifesto. “As soon as the Covid-19 vaccine will be available for production at a mass scale, every person in Bihar will get free vaccination,” Union minister and BJP leader Nirmala Sitharaman had said. “This is the first promise mentioned in our poll manifesto.”
Opposition leaders took exception to the promise and raised questions over the use of vaccines to further political agenda. Others raised doubts if states which are not poll-bound will receive the same treatment or not.
Clarifying the BJP’s stance on the controversy, Union Minister of State for Health Ashwini Chaubey had said that every state will be given free coronavirus vaccines.
India has not signed a deal for a coronavirus vaccine yet so it is unclear when it will be available for use in the country. Availability of the vaccine in India will be subject to approval by domestic regulators, and the Indian government agreeing to purchase them. So far, many other nations including the United States, United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia and Israel have made deals to buy millions of doses of the vaccine.