West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to allocate greater quantities of medical oxygen and vaccines to the states as Covid-19 infections and deaths continue to mount at an alarming rate.
Banerjee, who took oath as the chief minister for a third term earlier in the day, renewed her demand for free vaccines, saying its shortages was the “core issue to address now”, reported The Indian Express.
“At the very outset, I would again like to emphasise free vaccination for all,” Banerjee wrote. “You may kindly recall my letter on 24th February 2021, wherein I had requested you to allow the government of West Bengal to allow procurement of vaccine from designated points for providing vaccination for the people of the state free of cost. This has not been addressed.”
She requested the prime minister to announce a universal immunisation programme for the country “in a transparent and time-bound manner”. Banerjee said the stocks of vaccines available with states at present was “too inadequate”, making the Centre’s direction to the states to vaccinate all adults an unrealistic target to achieve.
The chief minister also urged Modi to ensure the availability of essential drugs, including remdesivir and Tocilizumab to states to meet its rising demand. “At least 10,000 doses of Remdesivir and 1000 vials of Tocilizumab is the daily requirement of our state,” Banerjee wrote.
Banerjee informed the prime minister that the consumption of medical oxygen in West Bengal had risen from 200 metric tonnes to 400 metric tonnes, and was likely to go up to 500 metric tonnes within a week’s time. “Concerned authorities may kindly be advised to allocate at least 500 MT of medical oxygen per day out of the total oxygen produced in Bengal on urgent basis to prevent any shortage,” she said.
The chief minister added that though the Centre has said it would establish 70 Pressure Swing Adsorption oxygen plants in her state, its installation is likely to take time. Therefore, this will not help in addressing the immediate necessity of supplies in the state, she said.
A devastating second wave of coronavirus in India has crippled the country’s healthcare system, leading to widespread shortages of medical oxygen and medicines across the country. A Scroll.in investigation has found that it took the Modi government eight months after the pandemic began to invite bids for 162 oxygen generation plants. Most still were not up and running by the time the second wave hit.
Meanwhile, Vijayan in his letter to the prime minister requested the Centre to provide at least 1,000 tonnes of Liquid Medical Oxygen, along with 50 lakh doses of Covishield and 25 lakh doses of Covaxin – the two vaccines being used in India – to Kerala, reported PTI.
The chief minister also sought the installation of Pressure Swing Adsorption oxygen plants in the state and more supplies of oxygen concentrators and ventilators on a priority basis, considering that Kerala has one of the highest active caseloads in the country.
Vijayan told Modi that since the overall projected requirement of liquid medical oxygen was rising, the buffer storage within the state needed to be increased urgently. “In order to augment the storage, we require at least 1000 tonnes of imported Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO),” he wrote.
The required quantity, Vijayan said, can be allotted partially from the current tranche of imports and balance from future imports. The government could also consider allotting 500 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen from the nearest steel plant to the state, he added.
On the vaccination front, the Kerala chief minister asked the Centre to take into account the number of people awaiting second dose as also the number of those registered for the first dose, while determining further allotment of vaccines to various states. “Accordingly, I request the allotment of 50 lakh doses of Covishield and 25 lakh doses of Covaxin to Kerala,” Vijayan said.