Modi commits vaccine for 'every person' in India, says states must team up

PM Narendra Modi during a virtual meeting with chief ministers and others to discuss the Covid situation and the plan for vaccine distribution | Photo: PTI
A nationwide immunisation programme for Covid has to be smooth, systematic and sustained, as it will go on for a long period. That will only be made possible if all states work together in a coordinated manner as a team, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Chief Ministers of all states on Tuesday. 

“Our priority will be to get the vaccine to every person in the country…India’s efforts towards a coronavirus vaccine is a national commitment to every citizen,” Modi said.

The PM chaired a high-level meeting to review the status and preparedness of Covid-19 response and management with special emphasis on eight high focus States which are seeing a surge in cases. These include Haryana, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and West Bengal.

Modi also brought a sense of urgency to setting up cold chain requirements and urged the states that it was time now that they started working towards assessing extra capacity needed and preparing their cold chain infrastructure for vaccine transportation.  

“States must be ready to implement the cold chain plan...A detailed plan will be finalised soon in this regard after discussions with the states,” he said. 

While asking states to give their suggestions and detailed plans in writing for vaccination drives to help in carving out a national strategy, Modi said that the safety of the coronavirus vaccine was as important as the speed at which it was made available.

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“We are keeping a close eye on vaccine developments across the world. It is not yet known how many doses will be required and what the cost will be...We will ensure any vaccine we provide will pass all scientific tests.” 

The Prime Minister said that the country is coming out of the deep sea of trouble to the shore now and we should not land up in a situation where things get out of hand. “Aisa na ho ki hamari kashti wahi doobi jahan paani kam tha.” 

He said that no one can be forced to follow a strategy made by the Centre and each state cannot have their own plan a state for vaccination and all states have together. “Opinions of the states are very important since they have to implement the plan on ground. We need their proactive participation.” 

The total coronavirus cases have remained below below the 50,000 mark since November 8. However, in states such as Delhi there has been a third peak with a high number of cases and deaths raising serious concerns. 

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal attributed the current surge in Covid cases to air pollution and sought the PM’s intervention to stop stubble burning in the neighbouring states. The number of deaths in the national capital touched an all-time high of 121, pushing the total number of fatalities to 8,512. 

PM said that states need to increase the RT-PCR testing to bring down the positivity rate to less than 5 per cent. He also said that the pandemic needs to be tackled at a localised level instead of taking a macro state level view of the situation. 

He said that India’s network from testing to treatment has strengthened and PM CARES funds are being utilised to make medical colleges and district hospitals self-sufficient in terms of oxygen generation and more than 160 new oxygen plants are underway. Rs 2,000 crore have been disbursed for ventilators through the fund

“We have to make sure the situation does not worsen. The whole world thought that India would not be able to handle the pandemic but we have faced it better than most countries.” 

Modi said that while earlier there was panic and doubt about the virus followed by acceptance where people took the virus seriously. But now with the recovery rate improving he said, people have developed a false notion of security from the virus, thus leading to rise in instances of negligence. 

“Vaccine in its place, we cannot become lax in our fight against the pandemic,” Modi added. 

While the centre had earlier asked states to set up steering committees at state and district level to coordinate the vaccine drive, Modi suggested that a task force should be set up at a block level with one person in charge. “These systems have to be put in place alongside our fight against the virus right away.” 

Maharashtra for instance, has set up a task force to manage distribution and vaccination in the state. A tweet by the Maharashtra’s chief minister office said it was in constant touch with Adar Poonawalla of the Serum Institute of India to track development of the coronavirus vaccine.

Uddhav Thackeray, chief minister of Maharashtra suggested a nationwide policy for vaccine distribution, inter state travel and containment zone for effectively controlling Covid 19 in the meeting with the PM. In light of the protests carried out by BJP against high power tariffs in the state, Thackeray also asked the government to call an all party meeting and advise political parties to support state governments in their campaigns against the virus. 

--with inputs from Aneesh Phadnis in Mumbai

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