Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday criticised Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for raising questions on the shortage of Covid-19 vaccines in the country.

Hours after Gandhi said that the country was still facing a shortage of doses, the health minister cited his explanation from Thursday. Gandhi had said in a tweet that the month of July had arrived but the vaccines had not.

Several states have reported Covid-19 vaccine shortages in the last few months. The Odisha government had to pause the vaccination drive in 16 districts on Thursday.

In Assam, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government was able to vaccinate only 16.63 lakh beneficiaries in the last 10 days due to the shortage of doses. This was almost 45% less than Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s target of inoculating 30 lakh people.

Mumbai’s civic body also suspended vaccinations at 300 centres on Thursday due to the shortage of stock. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation also said that doses will be administered for only three hours on Friday.

To Gandhi’s tweet, Vardhan said that he had already given a statement about the vaccine availability in July on Thursday.

“Does he [Gandhi] not read?” the health minister tweeted. “Does he not understand? There is no vaccine for the virus of arrogance and ignorance!! Congress must think of a leadership overhaul!”

On Thursday, Vardhan had tweeted that 12 crore vaccine doses will be available in July.

“States have already been informed in advance about Covid-19 vaccine supplies for July,” he had tweeted. “This info was shared with states 15 days prior, along with details about day wise supply.”

Union Minister Piyush Goyal reiterated Vardhan’s remarks on vaccine availability in response to Gandhi’s tweets. He said: “Rahul Gandhi should understand that the petty politics is not appropriate at this time instead of taking the fight against the coronavirus seriously.”

In a series of tweets on Thursday, Vardhan had also accused Opposition leaders of making irresponsible statements about India’s Covid-19 vaccination drive, and asked them to give up their “shameless urge” to play politics amid the pandemic. However, he didn’t elaborate on the statements he was referring to.

Vardhan urged Opposition leaders to put more energy in “planning and not in creating panic”. He did not name any political leader in particular. “I request these leaders to desist from their shameless urge to play politics even in the midst of a pandemic,” he added.

Vardhan said that in case states were facing problems in their vaccination drives, it was their responsibility to plan better. “Intra-state planning and logistics are the responsibility of the states,” he said.

Vaccine policy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a modified vaccination policy on June 7. It came into effect on June 21. Under the policy, the Centre would provide vaccines free of charge to beneficiaries in the 18 to 44 age group. The government will buy 75% of the vaccine produced by companies, including 25% assigned to states.

Private hospitals will, however, continue to buy the remaining 25% of the vaccine stock. This means some beneficiaries will have to pay for their vaccines if they choose to get inoculated at private medical facilities.