CHANDIGARH: Punjab Health and Family Welfare Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu on Wednesday said the Centre's decision of capping the price of Covid vaccines at private hospital came late and urged it to abolish the 25 per cent quota kept for private players.
Two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the central government will provide free coronavirus vaccines to states and union territories for inoculation of all above 18 from June 21, Sidhu in a statement urged the Centre to refund all payments made by state governments for vaccines.
The decision of capping the price was taken at a much later stage when private hospitals have already made huge profits while BJP leaders levelled false allegations that the Punjab government is making profit by supplying vaccines to them, the minister said.
He said the state governments do not enjoy the unique position of the Centre, which has the advantage of being a monopolistic buyer and can negotiate an appropriate price.
The Centre was getting the Covishield vaccine at Rs 150 per dose whereas the state government was getting it at Rs 315, he said.
The minister also said the Centre should administer free vaccines to all sections of society as the BJP had announced in several assembly polls.
Keeping this in view, the Centre should abolish the 25 per cent quota allocated to private players, he said.
Lashing out at the Centre for blaming Punjab government for allegedly making profit by supplying vaccines to private hospitals, the minister said considering the vaccine policy of the Union government, they decided to prioritise the poor and most deserving sections.
He said the private hospitals were expected to cater to those in the 18-44 age group who wanted to avail paid vaccination such as students and those who have to take up jobs in foreign countries and were not being covered in any of the priority groups.
He said the month of May witnessed the peak of the second wave and many youngsters aged between 18-44 appealed to the Punjab government that there was no vaccination available in private hospitals in Punjab unlike other states.
Sidhu stated the vaccines were given to the private hospitals at the rate they would have paid to the manufacturers as giving at a rate less than that would have given them undue profit.
The sale price of vaccines supplied to private hospitals went into the state fund for the purchase of vaccines for the poor and the deserving, he said.
The minister clarified that fixing the rate of any vaccine as well as medicine falls under the purview of the Centre and latest instructions regarding capping of vaccine prices at private hospitals have been issued to all deputy commissioners and civil surgeons to ensure the compliance.