Opposition continues to target Centre over ‘differential pricing’ for vaccines

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on April 22, 2021

SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA / The Hindu   -  The Hindu

Sonia Gandhi slams Modi government in a letter; Mamata, Stalin call for ‘one vaccine price’

The “differential pricing mechanism” of the vaccines has created a storm as almost all the Opposition parties have urged the Centre to review it, amid rising Covid 19 cases and the scarcity in supply and production of the vaccines.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention on this issue. In a letter to Modi, she asked the Centre to set a goal that “everyone over 18 years is given the vaccine”, regardless of their economic circumstances.

Sharing deep concern and a sense of anguish among the people about the vaccination policy, she said it was surprising that the Centre continues to follow “an arbitrary and discriminatory policy”, despite harsh lessons faced in 2020. She said the policy promises to exacerbate existing challenges.

‘Free vaccine for all’

She reminded Modi that it is the Centre’s duty to provide free vaccination for citizens between the age group of 18 to 45 years and it should not abdicate that responsibility. “This (the policy) is complete abandonment of the government’s responsibility towards our youth,” she added in the letter.

She said the “differential pricing mechanism” announced by the Serum Institute means that citizens will be compelled to pay high rates to be vaccinated. “This will also bleed the finances of the State governments,” she charged. She questioned how can a vaccine manufactured by the same company have three different prices.

“There is no rationale or justification that allows for such arbitrary distinction. Furthermore, in these unprecedented times, how can the government of India permit such brazen profiteering from people’s misery? At a time when medical resources are scarce, hospital beds are unavailable, oxygen supply and availability of essential medicine is dwindling rapidly, why is your government allowing a policy that reeks of such insensitivity. Even with regards to the fifty percent quota for vaccination available with the Central government, the allocation must be transparent and equitable, in line with the spirit of co-operative federalism,” she said.

Didi, Stalin slam

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also demanded one price for vaccines. “One nation, one party, one leader shouts BJP all the time but to save lives they can’t have one price for vaccine. Every Indian needs free vaccine, regardless of age, caste, creed, location. The government must fix one price for the Covid-19 vaccines irrespective of who pays — Centre or the States,” she said.

DMK leader MK Stalin said the differential pricing for vaccines between Union and State governments are discriminatory and defeats the objective of universal vaccination. He urged the Prime Minister to ensure common vaccine prices for all. “States must also receive Central funding to procure vaccines as per their needs,” he added.

Opposition leader in Bihar Tejshwi Yadav said that with this speed of the inoculation drive speed, it will take eight to nine years for vaccinating people of this country. He urged the Centre to spell the plans for procurement of vaccines. “Just four per cent people have received vaccines as of now,” he said.

Published on April 22, 2021

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