Pinarayi Vijayan, the Chief Minister of Kerala, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, proposing that he should reconsider the current policy of Covid vaccination distribution so that the states are not burdened with additional costs. He stated, "The state governments are already facing additional financial commitments due to the pandemic. The additional burden of purchasing vaccines will place considerable strain on state finances''.
On April 19, the central government of India announced the third phase of Covid-19 Vaccination whereby everyone above the age of 18 shall be eligible for the vaccine, beginning from May 1. In this phase, manufacturers of vaccines will be required to provide the Centre with half of their monthly doses produced by the Central Drugs Laboratory. The remaining 50% of doses will be available to state governments and the open market.
While applauding the decision to encourage more citizens to be vaccinated, he stressed the importance of state and centre cooperation in combating the virus. Although the distribution policy states that the Centre will provide vaccines free of charge from its quota, Vijayan believes the states need assurance that they will not be forced to compete with open market players. He said, "Instead of having a government of India channel, we need to have government channel which will include the state government through whom the vaccine will be distributed."
"The state governments have constitutional obligation in the health sector and do need an assured quota of Covid-19 vaccine which has to be provided free in the pandemic situation. It is imperative that vaccines are provided to the states as a public good, free of cost," Vijayan wrote.
Additionally, he also expressed that Kerala had requested 50 lakh vaccine doses from the Centre, but had only received 5.5 lakh doses. Nine other states have complained about vaccine shortage.
As of April 21, Kerala has 1,18,673 active cases and 51,86,985 people have received the first dose of vaccination.