A health worker holds a vial with doses of Covishield in Paramaribo, Suriname, February 23, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Ranu Abhelakh
New Delhi: A national association of doctors and scientists have accused the Centre of lending the COVID-19 vaccination drive to “profiteering” by private companies rather than ensuring public financing of the programme.
In a statement, the Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum said on Wednesday that the Centre’s move is “bound to lend the vaccine prices to market manipulation for maximising private profits”.
“Rather than ensuring entirely public financing of vaccination, which makes far better epidemiological and economic sense, the government has lent even the vaccination drive to profiteering by private companies by announcing that 50 per cent of all the doses shall now be routed through the open market.”
“This is bound to lend the vaccine prices to all manner market manipulation for maximising private profits. Promises of free vaccination, it appears, are good only for winning elections, and dumping the people thereafter,” it said.
The forum said the Central government commands the financial resources to extend grants to, and thereby demand the answerability of private manufacturers.
“In a situation where there is already a critical shortage of vaccine doses, this implies that the states shall have to bargain at their level with the manufacturers for the best price, and shall in (all) probability have to out-bid each other to be able to secure enough doses to meet their respective demands.
“The situation demanded of the Centre to procure vaccine supplies at a much reasonable cost through the public sector and extend liberal grants to the states,” it added.
The Centre had on Monday announced that everyone above 18 years of age would be eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 from May 1. It also allowed states, private hospitals and industrial establishments to procure the vaccine doses directly from manufacturers.
Under the third phase of the national vaccination drive commencing next month, the vaccine manufacturers would supply 50% of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) released doses to the Central government. They would be free to supply the remaining 50% doses to state governments and in the open market.