The centralized Covid-19 vaccination drive started on June 21, 2021. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the decision in an address to the nation. This decision was taken after the states failed to procure vaccines.
India vaccinated over two crores (20 million) people in the last three days. Overall, the country administered more than 30 crores (300 million) vaccine doses.
This saw some cheer spread amongst the supporters of the ruling party. However, senior Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh and P Chidambaram criticized the government. They raised questions on numbers and the pace of the vaccination.
PM Modi addressed the nation on June 7, 2021. In his 30 minute address, he informed the country of the decision to centralize the vaccination drive. He spoke about the reasons behind the vaccination shortage and the sluggish vaccination drive. Finally, he laid down the roadmap on the progress of India’s vaccination effort.
India started its vaccination drive on January 16, 2021. As the drive progressed, the states demanded a decentralized approach to vaccinating the people. The demand arose from the Opposition ruled states. At the same time, leaders from the Opposition spread misinformation about the vaccines. They created an atmosphere of vaccine hesitancy.
The Opposition shifted many goalposts criticizing the vaccination program. They demanded the vaccine be opened for all despite the government adopting a scientific approach. The opposition leaders demanded the vaccination drive be decentralized.
Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal wrote letters asking for a decentralized process.
Rahul Gandhi wrote a letter of April 9, 2021. In his letter, he asked the Central government to give states more significant say in vaccine procurement and distribution. Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma endorsed the view. He said, “We are a federal country…health is a state issue. The epidemic is separate. But when it comes to healthcare, the Centre cannot control.”
Mamata Banerjee, the West Bengal CM, wrote a letter on February 24, 2021. She held the view that states should be allowed to purchase vaccines directly with state funds. Arvind Kejriwal followed in her footsteps. He wrote a letter in March.
When the Centre allowed them to handle the vaccination in their states, the state governments failed to deliver. They could neither procure vaccine doses nor could they make use of available doses of vaccine. States floated global tenders for vaccines. But foreign pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna, refused to deal with them.
The Chief Ministers of Delhi, Kerala and Jharkhand had announced free vaccinations. When they failed, they wrote letters to PM Modi. They wanted the PM to fulfil their promise.
The other aspect of the decentralized vaccination drive was the wastage of vaccines. Covid-19 centres in Rajasthan dumped 100 vials of the vaccine in the garbage. Similar news reports came in from Raipur village in the Pali district. The Congress-ruled states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand topped the wastage charts. Both states had a wastage percentage above 37 per cent.
As the states failed to procure vaccines, Congress reversed its stand on decentralization of the vaccination process. It accused the Centre of abdicating its responsibility. This cost India almost 4 – 6 weeks and slowed down the process. It prompted PM Modi to take charge of the situation.
During his address, he rolled out the new vaccination plan. PM Modi announced that the recent vaccination would start from June 21. The vaccination drive would be free of cost for all people above the age of 18.
The Centre took back the responsibility for the procurement of vaccines. PM Modi announced the details of the procurement process. He said the Centre would 75 per cent of vaccine doses. They would be distributed to the states for free. Private hospitals would procure the remaining 25 per cent at market price.
The PM capped the prices of the vaccine doses. He said the hospitals could charge only INR 150 as a service charge. The highest fees for the vaccines available in the market were capped. Private hospitals could not charge more than the capped price. Covishield was made for INR 780, Covaxin for INR 1410 and Sputnik V at INR 1145.
The centralized vaccination drive started on June 21 with a huge success. People started noticing the high number of vaccine doses administered on the day. India administered an unprecedented 90,86,514 (9 million) doses of vaccine. The momentum carried forward, despite a dip. The next day India vaccinated 5.4 million. It followed up with 6.4 million and 6 million doses on the following days. India is averaging 50 lakh (5 million) doses a day. In numerical terms, India is vaccinating a little more than the entire population of New Zealand every day.
However, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh pointed out the figures from Madhya Pradesh stated that the numbers don’t add up. He quoted figures and tweeted, ‘Who are we trying to fool’.
The Madhya Pradesh Medical Education Minister tweeted back, “We organized a mega mass vaccination drive on Monday. Tuesday (June 22) is not our vaccination day. The data you are talking about (less than 5000 Covid vaccines administered) only includes private hospitals.”
The next day Madhya Pradesh vaccinated a whopping 10,84,698 (1 million) vaccine shots. Today, Madhya Pradesh vaccinated 7,44,784 (744 thousand) vaccine doses. As I put this story to bed, India, on June 24, 2021, administered 60,36,389 (6 million) doses of Covid vaccines.
The vaccination numbers under the centralized vaccination drive are witnessing a massive spike. With India administering one crore (10 million) doses every two days, the country is taking giant strides.