The Centre on Wednesday wrote to Maharashtra, Punjab and Delhi governments suggesting that their vaccination of eligible beneficiaries, including healthcare workers has been below-par, PTI reported. In a letter to principal secretaries of the three governments, Union Additional Health Secretary Manohar Agnani urged them to take necessary corrective actions to improve the performance of their vaccination drive.

“The primary objective of vaccination is to protect the healthcare and pandemic response system, especially in states having a surge in Covid-19 cases,” the letter stated, according to NDTV. “...You are kindly requested to undertake necessary corrective actions immediately for improving the performance of Covid-19 vaccination drive in your state/UT.”

The letter came on a day when reports quoted officials and ministers in at least six states warning the Centre of a vaccine shortage. However, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan rejected the claims and said that they were “deplorable attempts” by state governments to distract attention from their failures and spread panic among the people.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday morning, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope had flagged that the state would run out of its vaccine stock in three days and had asked the Centre for more supplies. Mumbai mayor and the state’s principal secretary (health) also backed his claim. By Wednesday evening, district authorities in Navi Mumbai, Satara and Panvel said they will halt coronavirus inculcation from Thursday due to scarcity of vaccines.

Officials in at least five other states – Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Odisha and Telangana – said that they were short of required number of vaccines in various degrees.

However, in an official statement released on Wednesday evening, Vardhan said that the allegations of vaccine shortage were “completely baseless”. Singling out the Maharashtra government, the Union health minister said the state’s “lackadaisical attitude” has singularly hampered the entire country’s efforts to fight the pandemic.

“In particular, I have seen statements made by public representatives in Maharashtra about shortage of vaccines,” he added. “This is nothing but an attempt to divert attention from Maharashtra government’s repeated failures to control the spread of pandemic.

Speaking on Chhattisgarh, Vardhan claimed that the state leaders have tried to “spread misinformation and panic” on vaccination.

The health minister also reiterated the Centre’s stand against opening up coronavirus vaccinations for all age groups – a demand raised by various quarters, including Delhi and Maharashtra governments. Vardhan said such demands raised by states presumably shows that they have vaccinated healthcare workers, frontline workers and senior citizens. “But the facts are altogether different,” he claimed, giving figures of their vaccination coverage.

India is currently in its third phase of vaccination, where those above 45 years are eligible to get the shots. Public and private hospitals have administered over 8.83 crore shots, with most of them accounting for the first dose. Three months after it rolled out vaccines, the country hit a grim milestone on Wednesday as it registered 1,15,736 coronavirus cases, the most infections reported in the world in a single day since the pandemic began.