Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday wrote to his counterparts in all the states, seeking their consensus to demand the Centre to procure coronavirus vaccines for them.

In a two-page letter to the states, Patnaik pointed out that many states had floated global tenders but the foreign vaccine manufacturers were willing to only deal with the central government. He added that the domestic vaccine manufacturers had supply constraints to meet the demands.

“Under the best circumstances, the best option available is for the government of India to centrally procure the vaccines and distribute it among the states so that our citizens are vaccinated at the earliest,” the chief minister said.

He also suggested that the execution of the vaccination drive should be decentralised, allowing states the flexibility to determine their own mechanism for the immunisation programme. “For example, many hilly areas cannot access the internet and therefore online registration has to be flexible, some vulnerable tribes can be given priority by the state, etc.”

Patnaik said that every citizen in the country has been affected by the pandemic in different ways by losing close ones or jobs or suffering from mental trauma. He said that the only way to protect people was by vaccinating them.

“No state is safe unless all the states adopt vaccination as the top most priority and execute it on a war-footing,” the chief minister said. “But this cannot be a battle among the states to compete against each other and procure vaccines.”

Asserting that the pandemic is perhaps the greatest challenge after the Independence struggle India has faced, he hoped that states would come together putting aside their differences “in the true spirit of cooperative federalism for saving precious lives and hard-earned livelihoods”.

On Wednesday, the Kerala Assembly unanimously passed a resolution urging the Centre to provide free Covid-19 vaccines to all the states in a timely manner. Two days earlier, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to 11 counterparts, requesting them to unitedly ask the Centre to procure coronavirus vaccines and distribute them to states free of cost. He also said the Modi government’s bid to place the entire onus of procuring vaccines on states defied the very basis of cooperative federalism.

On the same day, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to give free coronavirus vaccines for beneficiaries of all age groups in the state. Vijayan’s letter was addressed to Soren and Patnaik among other chief ministers.

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.

India has so far administered 21,66,86,157 vaccines doses with 4,38,99,600 getting both the shots, government data showed. On Wednesday, India recorded 1,32,788 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, taking the country’s tally since the outbreak in January 2020 to 2,83,07,832. As many as 3,207 more fatalities pushed the toll to 3,35,102.

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