'Recipe for Exclusion': CPI(M), Congress Slam Centre's New Vaccine Policy

The Central government is washing its hands of the problem and passing it on to the states, the CPI(M) argued.

New Delhi: A day after the Narendra Modi government announced that anyone above the age of 18 will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations from May 1 but that private players will be allowed to set their own prices, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has said the Centre is once again washing its hands of the crisis and put the whole responsibility on the state governments.

As The Wire has reported, as per the new vaccine police, manufacturers will now be empowered to release up to 50% of their supply to state governments, who can procure vaccines directly from manufacturers.

“This policy is essentially an effort to liberalise vaccine sales and deregulate prices, without augmenting supply. The centre has failed for a year to do anything to ramp up adequate and needed vaccine supplies. This is a recipe for exclusion of crores of people who will find it unaffordable to procure the life-saving vaccine,” the CPI(M) Politburo has said.

“Further, vaccines were so far free of cost to the states. Now, states  have to ‘procure’ them from the ‘open market’ without any price regulation. The vaccine providers according to this latest policy, will declare their ‘self-set vaccine price’. This again, is bound to exclude an overwhelming majority of our people,” it continued.

The new policy, the CPI(M) alleged, would also likely lead to large-scale black marketeering and hoarding. “A mass vaccination programme has to be free and universal. This has been independent India’s heritage and practice,” the statement said, while condemning the “discriminatory, anti-equity and haphazard policy making of the centre”.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi too has said the Centre’s new police is discriminatory.

When the policy was first unrolled on Monday, several commentators pointed out that the Centre – while widening the vaccination net but not saying where these vaccines or the funds for them would come from – was basically giving up responsibility and leaving states and the population to fend for themselves.