The Congress and Shiv Sena on Wednesday criticised the Centre for its response to the Maharashtra government’s concerns over vaccine shortage and its demand that inoculations should be allowed to people from more age groups.

Their comments came on a day when reports quoted officials and ministers in at least six states, including Maharashtra, warning the Centre of a vaccine shortage. Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope had warned that the state would run out of its vaccine stock in three days and had asked the Centre for more supplies.

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 to control the pandemic, and to spread panic among the people. The health minister also reiterated the Centre’s stand against opening up coronavirus vaccinations for all age groups – a demand made by various entities, including the Delhi and Maharashtra governments.

Reacting to these developments, Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi said that Vardhan’s statement did not seem like it was coming from the country’s health ministry, but from a Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson. Chaturvedi had written to Vardhan urging the Centre to release more vaccines for Maharashtra and make them “universally available”, ANI reported.

“It kind of saddened me, disturbed me, and also disgusted me at the same time, that a letter that was written in good spirit and intent...would hope to get a scientific response...because he is the health minister of the country and not the spokesperson of a political party,” Chaturvedi said, in a video message on Twitter. “But what he responded with was not just political, but also seeking brownie points by attacking some states.”

Pointing out that Maharashtra had administered the highest number of shots among all states, the Shiv Sena leader said that the state needed the Centre to release more vaccines.

Congress’ Maharashtra unit President Nana Patole also said that the Centre and Bharatiya Janata Party will have to face serious consequences if adequate doses of vaccines were not provided to the state, PTI reported.

His party colleague Anant Gadgil said that Vardhan’s comments were politically motivated and said that the Centre’s vaccination policy was a “total mess”.

“Ideally,the Centre should have given more stocks to Maharashtra and permitted the state government to entirely vaccinate badly affected districts instead of insisting on 60 or 45-plus age group and people with comorbidities,” Gadgil told PTI.

The Congress leader also questioned why the Centre was not allowing foreign companies who have successfully produced vaccines to supply in the Indian market.

India is currently in its third phase of vaccination, where those above 45 years are eligible to get the shots. Till 1.50 pm on Thursday, public and private hospitals have administered over 8.97 crore shots, while more than 1.06 crore people have received both doses of the vaccine, according to official data.

On Thursday, India recorded 1,26,789 new cases of coronavirus, in yet another record high count of infections reported in a single day since the pandemic began. India’s overall count rose to 1,29,28,574 and the toll went up to 1,66,862, with 685 new deaths.

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