Hyderabad: IT and Industries Minister KTR slammed the Union Government for alleged inefficiency in procuring the Covid vaccines for the people.
During the #AskKTR session on Twitter, Minister KTR replied to queries related to vaccination drive, vaccine doses, and other related topics. The one and a half-hour-long session was trending at number 2 On Twitter India trends.
"The problem is vaccine supply versus demand gap. We have the ability to vaccinate more than 10 lakh people a day but unfortunately constraints on vaccine supplies are hampering brisk progress," he replied after a netizen asked when the entire population of Telangana will be vaccinated.
KTR in his initial tweets explained why there is a demand - supply gap when India is the vaccines hub. "Other countries were placing orders for vaccines back in the first half of 2020. The government of India woke up late. Our orders were placed in Jan 2021," he said.
When a netizen asked why the Centre doesn't make a deal with the other countries to procure doses (of AstraZeneca) KTR said, "There are more than 50 crore unused doses of Covishield in various countries including the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway. The Centre needs to procure these at the earliest and allot to states," he said.
KTR noted that the US in May 2020 secured several million doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine but didn't use this much under their vaccination programme. Countries like Norway, Denmark & Canada had ordered significant quantities of Astrazeneca vaccine, he said.
Criticizing the Centre, KTR said: "Counting up all vaccine deals per capita, Canada has procured nearly nine doses per person. While all of this was happening, the Centre was pushing Vaccine Maitri and promoting vaccine exports from India."
Responding to questions on Central Government funds allocation for vaccination, KTR said, "The Centre had announced that they have allocated Rs 35,000 Cr in the Union Budget for vaccination. Assuming we cover 100% population, we need 272 Cr doses at Rs. 150 Rupees per dose. Don't know where that allocation has gone now."
Asked about private hospitals charging high prices for vaccine doses, KTR said, "Different prices per different entities have been permitted by Centre. For Centre Rs 150 & they take 85% of all vaccine produced. In the remaining 15%, states & private hospitals have to compete. For states, Covishield is priced at Rs 300 & Covaxin at Rs 400."
On age restrictions, he said, "This age category vaccination is in fact strategically misplaced in my opinion. Telangana government has taken a novel approach to vaccinate high exposure and high-risk occupational categories irrespective of age & we are covering both urban & rural areas."
"The total current production capabilities of Bharat Biotech & Serum Institute as of May 2020 are at approximately 10 Cr doses per month. Now I request you to do the math as to how this would cover the huge percentage of 18-45 age group which is nearly 80 Cr taking into consideration two doses each."
When a netizen asked, 'Where is my vaccine?' he said, "Ask the Centre that bungled up and created this situation where states are pitted against one another and against the private sector. They didn't place orders when they had to and even now don't want to call for a single tender for the entire country."
"When the states reach out to vaccine manufacturers, they are clearly saying they would rather deal with the government of India, which unfortunately seems to have no urgency to go for global procurement and supply to all the states," he added.
In one of his tweets, KTR also said that the state government has administered a second dose to 13.5 lakh people in Telangana.
When asked why the second dose of Covishield vaccination was stopped in government hospitals in Telangana, KTR said, "As you are aware, the gap between first and second dose for Covishield has been increased by the union government. Those who are eligible are being administered."
When asked why Telangana-based pharma companies are not being incentivized to produce doses and take orders from the State, KTR said,
"Unfortunately all their production is being closely monitored by the government of India. Around 85% of vaccine production goes to the Centre. In the remaining 15%, we have to compete with other states and hospitals which buy at three times the rate. Guess who they would prefer selling to?"
On Telangana government's tenders for import of surplus vaccines from other countries, KTR said, "Unfortunately, vaccine manufacturers prefer to deal with one entity as opposed to multiple."
Throughout the session, KTR responded to the questions in a very detailed manner. In spite of a few leaders calling him names and using disrespectful words, KTR remained calm and stated that it's not in his culture to call names and insult people.