LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (26/04/2021)

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Vaccines Must Be Free For All – I

The health ministry’s  Covid vaccination policy of setting aside 50% of doses produced in the country for private hospitals and  states   from May 1, will hit the poor masses severely. Already there is  shortage of vaccines in many parts of the country,  including Mumbai and this move will make it even more difficult for the poor to get access to the vaccine.  Moreover, if private hospitals are allowed to purchase the vaccine on their own, the possibility of corrupt practices will increase– at least in some  hospitals. People will be willing to  pay a premium, as usual, for jumping the queue.  India is a poor country. If you keep out the top 1% of population (who own  half of the total wealth), our country is  really very poor. I am of the opinion that the vaccine must be free for all, except for the top 1% of the population.  The govt needs money to fund this project. The rich must help. These wealthy folks are now reportedly flying to Dubai  by their own or chartered jets to get vaccinated there,  as  Dubai allows vaccination to those who have residency visas. Apparently they have a predeliction for the Pfizer  vaccine .  They think nothing of spending tens of thousands of dollars for the trip for a vaccine costing about $15. These are the rich Indians who holiday in the Maldives  and other such exotic  locales.  They own properties in various countries.  I also believe that they are good humans and will not mind paying back to the nation and the people who helped make them rich. I suggest that these folks  be encouraged to take the vaccine (Pfizer  or any other which may be imported) at  some top end hospitals in India for a donation card of Rs 50,000 per head. I am  confident that they will willingly agree. Incidentally  this 1%  of population translates into 13 millions people including family members. This, incidentally is more than the population of Greece , Portugal  or Belgium! The revenue generated will be around Rs 65,000 cr enough to vaccinate all people in the country free of cost.

Robert Castellino, Calangute

Vaccines Must Be Free For All – II

At a time when vaccination has become an important weapon in the fight against the coronavirus, comes the news that the vaccine manufacturers in the country have increased the price of the vaccine. The Covishield vaccine has reportedly been priced at 1.5 times the initial rate. The manufacturers of Covaxin have stated that it will provide the vaccine to the state government at Rs 600 per dosage and to private hospitals at Rs 1,200 per dosage. The world’s largest vaccine maker which manufactures Oxford-Astra Zeneca vaccine at Pune has priced the vaccine at Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals and Rs 400 per dose for state governments. It is learnt that the manufacturer of Covaxin is supplying the vaccine to the central government at Rs 150 per dosage and the government on its part is distributing it free of cost. The increase in price is reportedly essential for up-scaling production and the company’s innovation towards other vaccines such as intranasal Covid-19 vaccines. Be that as it may the new pricing of the vaccine could prove prohibitive for the poor people at a time when vaccination is of vital importance. The government at the centre and the state needs to absorb the rise in price so that the vaccine is made available free of cost to the citizens. It is pertinent to note that the central government has waived the customs duty for the import of vaccine, medical grade oxygen and related equipment.

ADELMO FERNANDES, VASCO

Dealing With Hospital Mishaps

As if the consternation of the pandemic is not enough, the country has now to deal with the horrors of hospital mishaps claiming the lives of coronavirus patients admitted there. Less than 48 hours after a shocking oxygen leakage-triggered mishap claimed the lives of 24 patients at a Nashik civic hospital, as many as 14, COVID-19 patients died when a fire swept through the Intensive Care Unit of a pandemic hospital at Virar. While conflicting reports as to the cause of the fire have emerged, the fact remains that a ‘maintenance shortcoming’ was responsible for the unfortunate incident. Even in the mishap which occurred at the hospital run by the Nashik Municipal Corporation, oxygen supply was disrupted due to a leakage in the main oxygen storage tank. Such accidents which happen in designated COVID-19 facilities draw all the more attention for the nature of patients who are lodged there. Fighting against the ravages of the disease, they are all in a very vulnerable position. Any lapse from the hospital managements’ side will hence prove costly resulting in the loss of lives. The state administration will hence have to take a stringent view of these mishaps and bring the guilty to book. As the pandemic continues to rage on, COVID care centers across the country are in the grips of a severe shortage. In addition to the oxygen crisis, hospitals across the country are battling acute shortage of beds, medical staff and life-saving drugs as well! The move to rope in private hospitals to accommodate coronavirus patients too is yet to yield the desired results. Moreover, reports of ‘waiting lists’ in crematoriums in the national Capital should also turn one’s attention towards the miserable condition prevalent where the COVID victims  are being denied dignity even in their death. Besides putting the country on international travel red list as COVID-19 cases here burgeon, the deadly coronavirus has further snapped India’s link with a large part of the world. Yet there is no perceptible change in the behaviour of the people.

PACHU MENON, MARGAO