At Covid review meet, PM Modi politely rejects Uddhav Thackeray’s request
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said India will have to keep Covid-19 vaccinations for certain age groups, despite calls from many states to extend the shots to younger people.
At a meeting with chief ministers to review Covid-19 situation, PM Modi said that efforts are being made to develop a new Covid-19 vaccine.
“You know how much vaccine is being produced. Now it is not that we can set up factories overnight. We will need to prioritise according to the available stocks. It is not that we can move stocks to one state and we will get the results. This thinking is not correct. We will have to think of the entire country,” the Prime Minister told chief ministers.
“The criteria set by more prosperous countries to vaccinate people against coronavirus is not different from what we have. You can study a bit. You are educated people and have all the information,” he said adding that a big part of Covid management is to reduce wastage of vaccines.
The Prime Minister also asked states to focus on testing and ensuring that people follow Covid-appropriate behaviour rather than relying on vaccines.
“Today, the problem is that we have forgotten about Covid-19 testing and have moved to vaccination. We have to remember that we had won the fight against Covid-19 without a vaccine. We have to emphasise on testing,” PM Modi told the chief ministers.
The Prime Minister’s reference to supply constraints come against the backdrop of concerns expressed by vaccine manufacturers. Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla said on Tuesday that his company, which is making the Covishield vaccine (over 90% of all doses given in India till now are of this), “was very outstretched”.
An analysis of production capacities show that between SII and Bharat Biotech, which makes Covaxin, India’s current capacity is around 75 million doses a month, or roughly 2.5 million a day. Over the last week, 3.1 million doses a day on average have been delivered across the country.
India is currently only vaccinating people above 45 years of age and frontline workers.
With his remarks, PM Modi rejected the demands raised by some chief ministers to increase the ambit of the nationwide vaccination drive. Among them is Uddhav Thackeray, the chief minister of worst-affected Maharashtra, who wrote a letter to PM Modi earlier this week urging him to allow the inoculation of people aged 25.
“I request you to lower it to 25, as the states facing the surge are having to place curbs to safeguard lives of the population. However, if a larger number of our young and working population is vaccinated, the intensity of the cases would be much lower than the treatment that they need today,” Thackeray said in his letter.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal also wrote a letter to PM Modi urging him to remove age-related restrictions for the ongoing vaccination drive and ease protocols for starting new vaccine sites.
He said that Delhi government can vaccinate all the people in national capital within three months if these norms are relaxed.
PM Modi chaired the meeting on a day when India recorded 1.26 lakh Covid-19 cases – the highest daily caseload since the pandemic began. The recent surge in the number of cases has worried officials; NITI Aayog member Dr VK Paul even said that next four weeks are very critical.