NEW DELHI: Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Saturday hit out at the Congress government in Punjab, which has come under fire by Opposition on the charge of profiteering by diverting centre-allocated Covid-19 vaccines to private hospitals in the state.
Addressing a press conference here, the union minister referred to questions earlier raised by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi that targeted the central government's on Covid-19 vaccines. Puri said the country's vaccines were being in the garbage in Rajasthan and being used for profiteering in Punjab.
"The Congress party has been fueling vaccine hesitancy. Rahul and Sonia (Gandhi) ji keep saying that we should not export vaccines. Rahul Gandhi asks - where are our children's vaccines? In Rajasthan they are in the garbage, and in Punjab they are being used for profiteering," Puri said.
Over the last few days, several vials of COVID-19 vaccines were reported being thrown out into the garbage in Rajasthan.
"In Punjab, Covid-19 doses which should be provided free of cost to people were sold at higher prices to private hospitals. A dose of Covishield that was purchased at Rs 309 was been sold at 1,560," Puri said.
He added that said that as per the Punjab government's officer and in-charge of COVID-19 vaccination, 4.29 lakh doses of Covishield were procured at Rs 13.25 crore, an average amount Rs 309 per dose.
As many as 1,14,190 Covaxin doses have been procured at Rs 4.70 crore, averaging to Rs 412, he added, saying that the state was making a profit out of their own procurement.
"The Punjab government's officer and incharge of COVID vaccination has disclosed on May 29 some data and pointed out that 4.29 lakh doses of Covishield procured at Rs 13.25 crore, its average amount Rs 309 crore. 1,14,190 Covaxine doses procured at Rs 4.70 crore its average amount is Rs 412," Puri said.
"The Centre has distributed 50 per cent of vaccines to states and Union Territories to administer vaccines to people free of cost. States are profiteering on their own procurement. If these figures are true then the real amount of profit is not just Rs 2.40 crore," Puri added.
This comes a few days after opposition Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal demanded a High Court-monitored probe into the alleged selling of Covid vaccine doses by the Punjab government to private hospitals for profit.
Meanwhile, the Punjab government on Friday withdrew its earlier order of providing "one-time" limited vaccine doses to the 18-44 age group population through private hospitals after allegations by opposition of "diverting" Covaxin doses at "hefty margins".
A brief letter-- signed by Vikas Garg, the state-in-charge for vaccination-- said the order "has not been taken in the right spirit and is hereby withdrawn".
Further, it has been decided that the private hospitals should return forthwith all the vaccine doses available with them. The doses which they have utilised as of date should also be returned, once they get supplies from the manufacturers," the order added.