The Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, while addressing a rally in Jhargram, West Bengal on March 17 said, "I say give COVID injections to common people, but till Central government does not give permission, nothing can happen. I am saying to you (referring to Narendra Modi) that give me the coronavirus vaccine, I will pay for it; so that I can make the coronavirus vaccine available for everyone for free. I am asking Narendra Modi, but he is not letting me do it. Coronavirus is back again, as you can see. We took care of you during Coronavirus, and we will keep doing the same in the future. But remember, all I want is vaccines to be free, but Narendra Modi won't let us do it... Why? Today, if we can give free vaccines for polio, malaria, and dengue, we can also give Covishield."
A YouTube channel, Political Hub, posted the video of Mamata Banerjee's speech given in Jhargram on March 17, 2021. At around 13:55 timestamp, one can hear Mamata talking about the distribution of coronavirus vaccine.
Mamata Banerjee government provided free vaccination of Dengue and Malaria in West Bengal.
The Logical Indian could not find a media report about the vaccination drives against Dengue and Malaria in West Bengal or India.
Here is what we found about vaccination programmes under National Health Mission:
According to the National Health Mission, the government of India started the Immunization Programme in 1978, intending to protect the children from preventable life-threatening conditions. Under this immunization programme, the government provides the following vaccines to children and newborn: BCG vaccines, Hepatitis B vaccines, Rotavirus vaccines, oral poliovirus vaccines, inactivated Polio Vaccine, Pentavalent vaccine (which protects from diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type B), Measles vaccine, Vitamin A, DPT Vaccine (which protects against diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and tetanus), Tetanus Vaccine. No other vaccines like Dengue and Malaria are provided by any government.
A recent polio drive ran across the nation for three days, starting from January 31, 2021. According to WHO, over 110 million children under five years of age were vaccinated against polio in these three days. This NID Pulse Polio campaign was organised by President Ramnath Kovind on Polio National Immunisation Day. According to an article published in India News on January 31, 2021, West Bengal targetted to vaccinate 64,07,930 children below the age of five in this polio drive. Hence, one thing to note here is that when Mamata Banerjee spoke about giving free polio vaccinations, she forgot to mention it is the initiative by the National Health Ministry and not the State government. The State government's role is to administer and support these drives, initiated by the Central government.
The Logical Indian spoke to an official in the health department of West Bengal, who told us, "No such vaccinations of Dengue or Malaria are provided, only those vaccines under National Health Mission are given to children."
Mamata Banerjee's statement on no free provision of coronavirus vaccines:
Mamata Banerjee, in the speech, said that she asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for free distribution of the coronavirus vaccine for common people, but he did not let her do it. We found this statement to be misleading, as well.
The Logical Indian found out a press release by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare published on February 28, 2021. According to the press release, all vaccines provided to beneficiaries at the Government Health Facilities will be entirely free of cost. At the same time, Private Facilities cannot charge the beneficiary a sum above Rs. 250 per person per dose (Rs 150/- for vaccines and Rs 100/- as operational charges).
The official in the health department of West Bengal also told us that the coronavirus vaccines can be procured in the government hospitals free of cost as per the central government's rule.
We also contacted a local journalist, who said, "There is no separate scheme launched by the State government for giving coronavirus vaccine, but the government hospitals are giving vaccines based on the scheme of Central government."
Was Mamata Banerjee completely wrong when she spoke about the vaccines of Dengue and Malaria?
After Mamata Banerjee's speech in Jhargram, social media users started mocking her and claimed that Dengue and Malaria vaccines are not yet invented. Here is what we found out about the vaccines of Dengue and Malaria:
As per the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the public health agency of the United States, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), approved the use of Dengvaxia in May 2019. Dengvaxia is the dengue vaccine manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur, for children 9-16 years old living in those areas of the United States where dengue is common. While we could not find any recent reports of Dengue vaccination in India, the last report that we could find was of NDTV published on September 16, 2019. According to NDTV's report, ICMR Director General Prof (Dr) Balram Bhargava said, "As soon as we get the approval (from the government), as soon as all permissions and documentations are done properly, we will launch the dengue vaccine in India." The article also spoke about the 'exemplary' dengue vaccination drive in Sri Lanka, resulting in zero deaths due to dengue. Hence, we were able to confirm that Dengue vaccines exist.
On April 24, 2019, a report by Economic Times spoke about the world's first malaria vaccine was launched in Malawi, a country in Africa. The Malaria vaccine's name is RTS, S/AS01 and is given to children up to 2 years of age. Hence, we know the malaria vaccine also exist. A recent report by The Times of India published on January 27, 2021, spoke about the production of malaria vaccines in India. According to the report, Bharat Biotech said it entered into a product transfer agreement with pharma giant GSK and global non-profit PATH for the world's only malaria vaccine RTS, S/AS01E1 that GSK developed.
Hence, we could confirm that though Malaria and Dengue vaccines are still not out in the Indian market, these vaccines are available.
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