In a key development on Friday, Karnataka Congress unveiled an Rs.100 crore plan to procure COVID-19 vaccines directly from manufacturers and administer them to people of the state. At present, only the Centre, state governments and private sector have been allowed to buy vaccine doses. Addressing a press briefing, Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar attributed this step to the failure of CM BS Yediyurappa and PM Modi to procure a sufficient number of vaccines. While Rs.10 crore will be donated by the state unit of the party, Shivakumar urged the Karnataka government to allow the use of MLA/MLC funds amounting to Rs.90 crore of Congress legislators.
Flanked by ex-Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah, Shivakumar remarked, “Since the Modi and Yediyurappa governments have collectively failed to vaccinate the masses, we want to do it ourselves. We just need two small permissions, one from the central government and one from the state government. My appeal to the BJP to not let politics come in the way and in the spirit of Atmanirbhar Bharat allow Congress to directly procure and administer vaccines."
This comes in the wake of a severe shortage of COVID-19 vaccine doses in Karnataka as a result of which the inoculation drive for the 18-44 years age group has been suspended. The state government has ordered a total of 3 crore doses from Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech and is also slated to float a global tender for procuring another two crore doses. Reportedly, it is also mulling the possibility of using the Bengaluru-based Institute of Animal Health and Veterinary Biologicals for manufacturing vaccines.
COVID-19 vaccination drive
From May 1 onwards, the Centre relaxed the age bar for COVID-19 inoculation and allowed the vaccine manufacturers to supply 50 per cent of its doses to state governments and in the open market. While some states managed to commence the vaccination for the 18-44 age category, the governments of Maharashtra and Karnataka have suspended this drive owing to a paucity of doses. Special emphasis has been laid on those aged above 45 who are waiting for the second dose of the vaccine.
Addressing a press briefing on Thursday, the Union government claimed that over 216 crore doses of vaccines will be manufactured in India between August and December. This includes COVISHIELD (75 crore doses), COVAXIN (55 crore doses), Bio E Sub Vaccine (30 crore doses), Zydus Cadila DNA vaccine (5 crore doses), SII-Novavax (20 crore doses), BB Nasal Vaccine (10 crore doses), Genova mRNA vaccine (6 crore doses) and Sputnik V (15.6 crore doses). This is expected to give a huge fillip to the vaccination drive in India.