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Keep one price for Covid vaccine across nation: Mamata to PM

Keep one price for Covid vaccine across nation: Mamata to PM
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Malda/Kolkata: Asserting that the Centre should not allow differential pricing of COVID-19 vaccines and have "one price" for it irrespective of who pays — Centre or the states, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said people should be able to avail the shots free-of-cost. She also termed the Centre's policy "highly discriminatory and anti-people".

Maintaining that "the states need to pay 167 per cent extra over and above the rates the Centre has fixed for itself", Banerjee raised the question in her letter that "why should the prices of vaccines be different in cases of state government? GoI gets the vaccines from manufacturers at Rs 150 per dose, while you have fixed for us, the states, a price of Rs 400 per dose!...This is anti-federal and anti-poor. States will buy vaccines for the poor and the young, hence your policy is both anti-poor and anti-youth".

"Such peculiar differentiation of rates is also unheard of in the Indian history. In fact, never ever has any state in this country been asked to buy vaccines in any mass immunisation drive, let alone at such hugely high rates!" she said.

This comes when Banerjee has announced from a public meeting at Tapan in South Dinajpur that free-of-cost vaccines will be given to all above 18 years of age in the state from May 5.

Besides upping her ante against the Modi-government for the disparity in the price of vaccines being supplied to the Centre, states and private hospitals, Banerjee also mocked the BJP-led Union government in a tweet stating that "One nation, one party, one leader shouts BJP all the time but to save lives they can't have one price for vaccine. Every Indian needs a free vaccine, regardless of age, caste, creed, location. GoI must fix ONE price for Covid vaccine irrespective of who pays— Centre or the States."

The outgoing Chief Minister also wrote a "strong letter" in this connection, seeking personal attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to "the recently announced Government of India policy on liberalised and accelerated phase 3 strategy of Covid-19 vaccination from May 1" stating that "I am afraid, this policy is highly discriminatory and anti-people. Moreover, it appears that there is a bias in favour of the market against the interest of common people".

Raising concern fixing rates for private hospitals at Rs 600 per dose "would trigger unscrupulous mechanism in the market", she stated in the letter that she "strongly feels that every Indian should get free vaccine, regardless of age, caste, creed, location, at one price, irrespective of who pays – the Centre or the states".

Banerjee, who has announced on Wednesday about the state government's move to create a fund worth Rs 100 crore to procure vaccines, lambasted the Centre while addressing the public rallies for not providing free of cost vaccines. "It (Centre) has a hell lot of money including in the PM Cares Fund. Then why they will deprive people of getting free-of-cost vaccines. The second wave of Covid is Modi's contribution as he did nothing to give vaccines to people in the past five-six months when the situation had almost come under control. Now he is asking people to buy doses for vaccination," she said, citing an example of Israel where people no longer need to put on masks as everyone has got vaccinated.

Reiterating the Centre's indifference in allowing states to procure vaccines – despite offering to pay – three months ago, Banerjee said the Bengal government has so far vaccinated 93 lakh people with 40,000 doses getting administered every day. Banerjee's announcement for "universal vaccination" from May 5 comes crucial when the state recorded 11,948 Covid cases and the disease claimed 56 lives in the past 24 hours.

Stating that she set out for her poll campaign only after taking stock of the state's situation in terms of Covid, Banerjee said: "The vaccination drive for all above 18 years would begin from May 5 with stress on Kolkata as it is most vulnerable. I have also directed to set up camps so that people do not face any inconvenience while visiting the centres for vaccination."

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