Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday wrote to 11 chief ministers, requesting them to unitedly ask the Centre to procure coronavirus vaccines and distribute them to states free of cost.
“Quite unfortunate that Centre absolves itself of its duty to procure vaccines, ensure free universal vaccination,” he tweeted. “United effort to jointly pursue our genuine demand is the need of the hour, so that Centre acts immediately.”
In his post, Vijayan tagged his counterparts MK Stalin from Tamil Nadu, K Chandrashekar Rao from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh’s YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, Uddhav Thackeray of Maharashtra, Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik, Mamata Banerjee from West Bengal, Ashok Gehlot from Rajasthan, Bhupesh Baghel of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand’s Hemant Soren, Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal, and Amarinder Singh from Punjab.
Several states are facing a shortage of vaccines, which has severely hampered India’s inoculation drive. Many of them have sought to procure vaccines through global tenders or by approaching manufacturers directly. However, some administrations, including in Delhi and Kerala, have said that global vaccine makers refuse to coordinate with them.
In his letter, Vijayan said that the second wave of the pandemic has badly affected the states and that experts have warned of a possible third wave. “This necessitates our heightened preparations and vigil to meet that eventuality too,” the letter said.
Citing these circumstances, the chief minister said that if the burden to procure vaccines falls on the states, they will be in “dire straits”.
“Fiscal strength of the states is an essential part of a health federal setup,” he said. “If the states’ finances are hamstrung, federalism itself will be weakened and this will not augur well for a democratic polity like ours.”
Vijayan also said the scarcity of vaccine shots will hamper efforts to build herd immunity against the virus. Herd immunity is achieved when a sufficient number of citizens are protected from an infection through vaccinations or previously contracting the disease, thus reducing the chances of the infection affecting the remaining population.
The chief minister said that till now, only 3.1% of the population has received both shots of the vaccines. He alleged that Indian manufacturing companies were looking to make gains through the scarce supply of vaccines. Vijayan added that foreign companies were unwilling to supply vaccine directly to states.
Vijayan suggested that the Union government should explore options such as compulsory licensing to boost production. Compulsory licensing is when a government allows someone else to produce a patented product or process without the consent of the patent owner or plans to use the invention itself, according to the World Trade Organization.
In his letter, the chief minister said the responsibility of states to provide Covid-19 vaccines defies the “basis of the co-operative federal structure” and asked other states to put forth the demand of procuring shots before the Centre.
India has so far administered 21,16,98,134 Covid-19 vaccine doses, with 4,33,77,479 beneficiaries getting both shots, government data showed.
On Monday morning, India’s Covid-19 case count reached 2,80,47,534 with 1,52,734 new infections recorded in 24 hours. As many as 3,128 fatalities pushed the toll to 3,29,100. There are 20,26,092 active Covid-19 cases and as many as 2,56,92,342 have recovered.