Pradhan denies vaccine shortage in Odisha, blames IAS officer for controversy

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Bhubaneswar, Apr 14 (PTI) Amid ongoing slugfest between the BJD and the BJP over alleged insufficient supply of vaccines to Odisha, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Wednesday denied any shortage of jabs and blamed a senior state health department officer of painting a picture of crisis of vaccines.

The officer in the line of firing of Pradhan is Additional Chief Secretary, Health and Family Welfare P K Mohapatra.

The Odisha government has been complaining of inadequate and insufficient supply of vaccines to the state and also alleging that the Centre was not adhering to 'Raj Dharma' while distributing vaccines among states.

'The Centre is causing discrimination in vaccine distribution. The BJP ruled states get more vaccines than others,' Odishas labour minister Sushant Singh has alleged.

Odishas Health and Family Welfare minister N Ka Das and department ACS Mohapatra had also dashed strongly worded letters to the centre seeking more vaccines for the state.

Odishas Family Welfare director Bijay Panigrahi had on Tuesday said that the special inoculation drive was halted in 11 of the states 30 districts due to non-availability of vaccines.

While 66,786 people were given jabs at 495 centres on Tuesday, it increased to 71,401 people in 556 centres Wednesday, an official said.

He said the state in the past on April 3 has inoculated the highest 2,71,480 people in 1474 centres.

However, the number has come down of late to below one lakh due to non-availability of the vaccines.

However, Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan, who hails from the state, alleged 'The Health Secretary is trying to show his might by painting a scenario of vaccine shortage whereas in reality there is no such situation.' Pradhan said, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik would not have thought on this line.

'The state health secretary is speaking like Rahul Gandhi and I congratulate him. But, I request him not to create such a crisis,' the union minister said.

Stating that there is no dearth of vaccines in the country, Pradhan said of the 11 to 12 crore vaccine doses distributed across the country, Odisha has received more than 45 lakh doses.

The situation will further improve once the centre gives nod to rollout of 2 to 3 more vaccines presently under advanced stages of approval.

On the other hand, a senior BJD leader pointed out that chief minister while attending the video conference of chief ministers with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 8, had categorically sought 25 lakh vaccine doses for Odisha.

'We are currently able to vaccinate 2.5 lakh persons per day and have capability to increase further. We request that at least 10 days stock of vaccines is ensured for Odiaha,' Patnaik had said.

This apart, the state health minister had also written two letters to Union Health and Family Welfare minister Harsh Vardhan informing that the state is not able to observe 'Tika Ustav' properly (between April 11 to April 14), due to shortcake of vaccines in Odisha.

BJD leader and MLA P K Deb, ridiculed Pradhan and suggested him to study facts and figures before making any judgment.

'The union minister must know that while Odisha was easily inoculating over 2 lakh beneficiaries a day, it is now managing to vaccinate only a lakh because of the less vaccine supply.

'On one hand while PM Modi is urging States to speed up vaccination, on the other, dearth of doses has been severely affecting the session plans,' Deb pointed out.

'If Health Secretary informs the centre about the ground situation, I dont understand how he is making a fuss,' Deb asked.

Meanwhile, Congress MLA Taraprasad Bahinipati also supported the ACS, H&FW and said 'What Rahul Gandhi said is correct. When people in this country are not getting sufficient vaccine doses, what is the point of sending to foreign countries'.

A senior health official said, the state has so far administered as many as 46,56,450 does to the beneficiaries.