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Creating panic : Health minister slams states in vaccine supply row

States flagging low Covid vaccine stocks are making “useless statements” and creating “panic among the people”, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya declared on Wednesday afternoon. In a series of six tweets posted in Hindi, Mr Mandaviya accused states of “mismanagement”. He said they had been informed of available supplies in advance but had failed to plan accordingly.

“Regarding the availability of vaccines, I have received information from letters of various state governments and leaders. This situation can be better understood by an actual analysis of the facts. Useless statements are being made only to create panic among the people,” he tweeted.

“The centre informed the states on June 19… about how many doses of the vaccine would be available in July. After this, on June 27 and July 13, states were informed about availability of vaccines every day for the first and second fortnights of July,” he wrote.

This information was provided in advance “so states know very well when, and in what quantity, they will get vaccine doses”, the Health Minister said, adding, “The centre has done this so states can do the work of vaccination… by planning properly and people do not face problems.”

Mr Mandaviya’s tweets come after several states, including Tamil Nadu and Delhi, once again warned the centre that they are running out of doses.

This week Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to say the southern state is not being allotted enough vaccine doses.

Mr Stalin asked for a special shipment of 1 crore doses, pointing out that the current allocation of 302 doses per 1,000 eligible members of its population was grossly inadequate, particularly when compared to Gujarat (533), Karnataka (493) and Rajasthan (446).

On Tuesday, Delhi said it had to shut several state-run vaccination centres as it had exhausted its Covishield stock. Maharashtra, Bengal, Punjab and Jharkhand have raised similar red flags.

However, Mr Mandaviya today dismissed such claims, declaring that the supply was “13.5 crore in the month of July” — up from “11.46 crore in June”.

“If the Center is giving this information in advance… and yet we see mismanagement and long queues… it is very clear what the problem is and who is the reason for it,” he declared.

The centre has said 1.54 crore doses were still left with states and private hospitals.

Vaccine supply has been a long-standing sore point as centre and states scramble to inoculate at least 60 per cent of the population before a possible third wave of infection.

Yesterday, Covishield maker Serum Institute said the production this month had been ramped up to 11 crore doses to meet its target. Covishield is the bedrock of India’s vaccination drive.

The centre, which re-took control of vaccination procurement last month, has said it will vaccinate all by the end of 2021.

However, a mix of vaccine hesitancy and lack of supply suggests otherwise. CoWin data indicates a decline in daily average vaccinations — 61.4 lakh in June 21-27 to 41.92 lakh in June 28-July 4.

Concern over the pace of vaccination has fueled talk of a third wave, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week urging people to maintain Covid protocols – use face masks and follow social distancing. NDTV