Opposition's actions created vaccine hesitancy, charges Union minister Hardeep Puri

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New Delhi, May 31 (PTI) Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Monday lashed out at the opposition parties for criticising the central government’s COVID vaccine policy, accusing them of creating “doubts” in the minds of people by raising questions over the efficiency of the vaccines produced by two domestic manufacturers last year.

“They have done a lot to create vaccine hesitancy,' he charged as he hit out at the opposition parties for allegedly targeting domestic manufacturers, saying that “sometimes” it feels that they are attempting to create India's dependency on foreign manufacturers.

Without taking the name of any company, the Union minister said the government has made advance payments to the domestic manufacturers for May, June and July for the production of additional vaccines.

Around 213 crore doses of vaccines will be available by the end of December, he asserted, adding there is no shortage of funds and, if required, the Union government will allocate more funds to ensure the availability of adequate doses of vaccines for people.

“These people had made much hue and cry after emergency use approval was granted to the vaccines produced by the domestic manufacturers.

'They asked on what basis Bharat Biotech vaccines were given emergency use approval when the trial was still not complete. And they also said the vaccine produced by another domestic manufacture was not good. Now they are asking for the vaccine,” Puri said while addressing a press conference “They have done a lot to create vaccine hesitancy, a kind of doubt in the minds of people….When they criticise the domestic manufacturers, I wonder why are they doing so. What is the basis for such criticism? 'Sometimes I feel that you (Opposition) are making efforts to create our dependency on foreign manufacturers,” he charged, without taking the name of any political party.

Later, while replying to queries from reporters, the Union minister took on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, accusing him of “fueling vaccine hesitancy” among people.

“You fuel vaccine hesitancy, criticise domestic manufacturers saying that they do not have experience. Whose side are you on?” the minister said, adding “whatever we are saying and doing at the time of crisis, people will remember.” Gandhi, who has been critical of the Modi government's handling of the COVID pandemic and its vaccine policy, on Monday alleged that the Centre has a 'zero vaccine policy' which is acting as a 'dagger in Mother India's heart'.

Many states have complained of a persistent shortage of COVID vaccines. On Monday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to his counterparts in 11 non-BJP ruled states seeking a united effort to press the Centre to procure COVID-19 vaccines and ensure free universal vaccination.

Puri said, “enough doses” of vaccines will be made available for “every Indian citizen” by the end of December.

While the government has made advance payments to the domestic vaccine manufacturers, it is also in “active touch” with the other potential manufacturers.

“The process is being personally supervised by the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) to ensure that vaccines are made available,” the Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs said. PTI PK RT RT

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