No response from Centre to demand for uniform vaccine charge: Tope

Mumbai, April 23

Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said on Friday that there has been no firm response from the Centre to the demand for uniform pricing of coronavirus vaccines.

He also said that the Serum Institute of India has informed that it can provide Covishield vaccine to the state only after May 24 as the Centre has booked all production until then.

Tope was speaking to reporters after participating in a virtual meeting held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the states worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

“All the major states have demanded ‘one nation-one rate’ for vaccine, but received no firm response from the Centre,” he said.

“We have examples of Israel or the UK where vaccination was carried out at a large scale. If the rates are reduced, we could buy more vaccines,” Tope said.

“If the demand is not met, the state will take responsibility of people under the poverty line only while others as well as corporates will have to take the vaccine on their own,” said the health minister.

Opposition parties have questioned why the SII’s Covishield vaccine was procured by the Centre at Rs 150 per dose but the states will have to shell out Rs 400 apiece.

The Centre has asked the states to vaccinate those in the 18-44 age group, and Maharashtra has around five crore people in this category so it would need more than 10 crore doses, Tope further said.

“The state finance department will have to study the burden of vaccine cost and take decision,” he added.

He also said that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray spoke with Adar Poonawalla of the Serum Institute which is producing Covishield about its availability.

Poonawalla informed that production till May 24 has been already booked by the Centre for its vaccination drive covering those above 45 years of age.

“He can supply vaccine only after May 24. We will also talk to Bharat Biotech (makers of Covaxin),” the minister said.

Maharashtra has 4,000 vaccination centres and enough trained manpower, but “the only problem is with the actual supply of vaccine, which is limited”, he said.

The state can inoculate eight lakh people on a daily basis but at present only three lakh people are getting the jab, Tope said.  — PTI


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