Govt's new vaccine policy 'discriminatory, anti-equity and haphazard': CPI(M)

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New Delhi, Apr 20 (PTI) The CPI(M) on Tuesday accused the government of introducing a 'discriminatory, anti-equity and haphazard policy' to deal with the coronavirus crisis and said that it was a way for the Centre to 'absolve' itself of all responsibility.

The government on Monday announced that everyone above 18 years of age will be eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 from May 1, liberalising the vaccination drive to allow states, private hospitals and industrial establishments to procure the doses directly from manufacturers.

'The new vaccine policy announced yesterday is once again an effort by the central government to absolve itself from the colossal health crisis that they have created. There is an effort to shift the entire responsibility on to the state governments.

'This policy is essentially an effort to liberalise vaccine sales and deregulate prices, without augmenting supply. The centre has failed for a year to do anything to ramp up adequate and needed vaccine supplies. This is a recipe for exclusion of crores of people who will find it unaffordable to procure the life-saving vaccine,' the party said in a statement.

Under the third phase of the vaccination drive commencing next month, the vaccine manufacturers would supply 50 per cent of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) released doses to the central government and would be free to supply the remaining 50 per cent doses to state governments and in the open market.

The party also said that the vaccines were so far free of cost to the states. Now, states have to 'procure' them from the 'open market' without any price regulation, it alleged.

'The vaccine providers according to this latest policy will declare their 'self-set vaccine price'. This again, is bound to exclude an overwhelming majority of our people. The state governments should be funded for the vaccines from the central exchequer. Further, this policy is bound to breed large-scale black marketeering and hoarding.

'A mass vaccination programme has to be free and universal. This has been independent India's heritage and practice. The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) strongly condemns this discriminatory, anti-equity and haphazard policy making of the Centre aimed at absolving itself from all responsibility,' it said.

India's total tally of COVID-19 cases climbed to 1,53,21,089 with 2,59,170 new coronavirus infections being reported in a day, while active cases surpassed the 20-lakh mark, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Tuesday.

The death toll increased to 1,80,530 with a record 1,761 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.

Registering a steady increase for the 41st day in a row, the active cases increased to 20,31,977, comprising 13.26 per cent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has dropped to 85.56 per cent.

The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 1,31,08,582, while the case fatality rate has further dropped to 1.18 per cent, the data stated. PTI ASG AAR AAR