Squandered great opportunity to vaccinate people in time due to Centre's missteps: Sisodia

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New Delhi, May 24 (PTI) Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Monday accused the central government of 'mismanaging' the coronavirus vaccination programme, saying it has asked states to float global tenders for jabs without giving approval to vaccines of foreign companies.

The Deputy Chief Minister in a letter to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan also charged that vaccination for the youth in the country has been 'messed' up due to policy 'missteps'.

'In spite of early advantages given by our scientific community and Indian manufacturers, we have squandered away the great opportunity of timely vaccination of our people.' 'The missed opportunity by the Government of India has resulted in extraordinary loss of lives during the current wave of Covid pandemic,' he wrote to Vardhan.

In an online briefing, Sisodia said US pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna have refused to sell coronavirus vaccines directly to the Delhi government and have said that they will only talk to the Centre.

'Is this a joke? On one hand states are asked to float global tenders for buying vaccines but the Government of India has not given approval to those vaccines,' Sisodia said.

Countries all over the world kept a watch on vaccine production ana many placed order in advance as trials progressed, but the government of India was 'sleeping', he charged.

The US and the European Union bought 70 crore vaccine doses by November 2020. The US started procurement at trial stage and currently has vaccine stocks to cover its entire population, he said.

Several countries have given approval to vaccines of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson but the Government of India is yet to do so, he said.

'Nearly 85 countries have approved vaccine by Pfizer, 46 countries have approved Moderna vaccine and 41 have approved Johnson and Johnson vaccine. They have also started procurement while we are still playing just a game of approval,' Sisodia said.

What is the 'compulsion' that India is depending on two local manufacturers that even exported doses to other countries. Sputnik has been given approval in April although it was permitted by Russia for emergency use in August last year, he said.

'I request the central government with folded hands not to make a mockery of the vaccination programme and understand its seriousness, nonetheless by the time vaccines are arranged those already vaccinated may lose antibodies and require to be vaccinated again,' he said.

The US started investing in vaccine production while it was facing first wave of coronavirus in March 2020. Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Serum Institute in November 2020 and investment in manufacturing started in April this year, Sisodia said.

He said all the 400 vaccination sites for the 18-44 age group have been closed in Delhi after the vaccine stock was over, while the centres administering Covaxin to the 45+ age group, healthcare workers and frontline workers too have been shut due to unavailability of jabs.

'Due to mismanagement by the central government there is shortage of vaccines and vaccination of youth has not started in several districts in the states,' he charged.

Stressing that vaccination is the most effective weapon against the coronavirus, Sisodia appealed to the central government to rise above partisan politics and procure vaccines of Johnson and Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer for the people of the country. PTI SLB/VIT SMN SMN

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