The Centre has done well to take over the responsibility
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that the central government will provide free COVID-19 vaccines to states and Union territories for inoculation of all above 18 from June 21. The Centre will now take over the 25 per cent state procurement quota allocated to states. Though four months ago the Centre had asked the states to procure vaccines directly from the manufacturers, the idea failed to take off as vaccine makers would only want to deal with the central government and not state governments. Failure to strike deals with manufacturers led to states making persistent demands that the Centre take over entire procurement of vaccines and then deliver it to the states. The latest announcement by the Prime Minister is seen as a much-needed course correction in the country’s anti-COVID inoculation drive. The new policy undoes the earlier policy that came into effect on May 1 from which the young people in the age group of 18 and 44 were made eligible to get the anti-COVID jabs. Had the Centre done it earlier a number of lives could have been saved.
Following the failure of the decentralization of the vaccine procurement policy the central government was forced to do a rethink on the issue. The officials dealing with the issue presented a revised centralised free vaccination policy to the Prime Minister on June 1 on completion of one month of the decentralised model, which was promptly accepted. The new arrangements will help the state overcome the problems that they have been facing in procuring vaccines, while the central government can now fend off the growing criticism it had to face from the opposition parties as well as the common man. The Centre also faced some tough questions from the Supreme Court and various High Courts on the vaccine procurement policy and also on the issue of the digital divide with regards to the policy of mandatory registration on CoWIN App for jabs. Since the coronavirus pandemic was an unprecedented issue, it would have been better for the Centre and states to discuss and formulate one policy which would have benefitted all states and union territories.
Now that the policy has been revised, the Centre and states must work together to ensure that all eligible people are vaccinated without delay. The Centre has announced an ambitious plan to vaccinate one crore people a day. To realise this goal the Centre must ensure adequate supply of vaccines from the makers. All state governments should join hands sinking their political differences. The immediate goal before the central and state governments should be to root out the pandemic causing virus before it claims more lives and damages the health of more people. Criticism of shortcomings in the fight could be left for another day when people do not have to worry about the deadly virus. While a revised policy has been announced, it should be the common endeavour of government authorities at various levels to ensure that all the bottlenecks that may surface in the days ahead are sorted out to give no scope for any weaknesses.
It is heartening to note that the Centre, which till recently brushed aside the criticism from various quarters, has done well to pay heed to the criticism and concerns and changed the policy. The revised policy will help expedite the vaccination process but that could happen only if there was adequate supply of vaccine. It is necessary that there is proper distribution of vaccines so that no state government gets any room to accuse the Centre of stepmotherly treatment. The vaccination drive in any state should not be impeded by the want of adequate supply of vaccines. The priority is not to score political points but to work sincerely for the well-being of the countrymen. The devastating second wave could be waning but it is necessary that the country prepares itself for any third wave that may hit. The best solution against COVID is to vaccinate the whole of the country, which is the challenge the country faces. Vaccine supply must improve in the days ahead. Simultaneously, the government authorities should make sure all people come for vaccination.