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Covid vaccine: “There is no shortage” says Union Health Minister

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told NDTV that “there is no shortage”, after a extensive argument between the centre and Maharashtra over the availability of vaccines.

“I want to say this on record. I said this even when we had a meeting with 11 states. There is no shortage of vaccine. States are given vaccines on the basis of their requirement and the stocks are continuously replenished,” Harsh Vardhan said in an exclusive interview.

The Maharashtra government announced earlier today that it would soon run out of vaccines. In a note to the central government, Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said vaccinations must be provided for all above 18 and that doses must be increased since Maharashtra was the single biggest giver to India’s Covid partner.

In Delhi, the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) cornered the central government on its “Vaccine Maitri” programme to ship vaccines to other countries. Party leaders led a rally march to the BJP headquarters saying: “Vaccinate Indians first before offering help to others.”

Dr Harsh Vardhan explained: “Indians are not suffering on account of Vaccine Maitri.” The country had sufficient doses to fulfil its national requirements and also help other countries, said the Health Minister.

Calling the wave of cases “a matter of concern”, Harsh Vardhan mentioned that this time the government was better ready to handle it.

“The basic problem is that people are lax. They are not taking Covid-appropriate behaviour seriously,” he said.

Asked whether he would say the same about politicians contesting for state elections, he agreed that “the problem exists in political rallies as well.” But it was for the Election Commission to monitor such groups, he asserted.

On the demand to open up vaccines for all, Harsh Vardhan said: ‘We are following WHO-suggested practices on vaccines in which the most vulnerable sections will be vaccinated first.”

Dr Harsh Vardhan also said on Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawala’s interview to NDTV, in which he confirmed that his vaccine making capabilities were “very stressed”. Mr Poonawala also requested economic support from the government.

The Health Minister said: “Financial aid to vaccine-developers is a collective decision which will be taken by a number of experts who monitor this situation on a regular basis.”

He also said allegations of new tensions driving the infections was “still not corroborated” or supported by scientific data.

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