AMRITSAR: Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal on Saturday accused the Centre of dragging its feet on granting US pharma giants Pfizer and Moderna necessary permissions to export their COVID-19 vaccines to India and said the process should be expedited.
He also asked Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to directly place orders with companies that are supplying vaccines instead of waiting to get doses from the Centre.
Badal was speaking at the inauguration of a free vaccination 'seva', an initiative by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), at the Golden Temple here.
The 'seva' will be extended to Takht Sri Damdama Sahib in Bathinda and Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib in Anandpur Sahib in the coming days, he said.
The SAD chief accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and CM Singh of having failed to fulfil their duty to provide vaccines to people.
Badal expressed surprise over the alleged delay by the Centre in granting permission to companies like Pfizer and Moderna to export their vaccines to India and said all necessary approvals should be fast-tracked.
Pfizer, which is ready to offer 5 crore doses to India between July and October this year and has sought certain relaxations including indemnification, has held a series of interactions with the Indian government authorities recently including one this week, during which it shared the most recent data points regarding efficacy trials and approvals for its vaccine in various countries and by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The government is examining Pfizer's request for indemnity and will take a decision in the larger interest of people and on merit, NITI Aayog Member (Health) V K Paul had said on Thursday.
Badal also urged the Centre to waive the goods and services tax (GST) on Covid medicines, oxygen concentrators, ventilators and vaccines.
"I don't understand why the Centre wants to earn money by taxing life-saving medicines and machines and making them more expensive for the people. Even the SGPC had to pay GST on purchase of vaccines. This must be waived immediately," he said.
Badal asked Singh to place orders directly with companies that are supplying vaccines instead of waiting for the meagre supply from the Centre.
He said the Punjab government should follow the example of the Mumbai municipal corporation, which used Rs 600 crore to purchase vaccines, and demanded that jabs worth Rs 1,000 crore be purchased immediately.
States across the country have reported a shortage of Covid vaccine doses and some have been forced to halt the vaccination drive for certain age groups.
Many states have also issued global tenders to procure vaccines.
Punjab's nodal officer for vaccination Vikas Garg had said on May 23 that the state has approached all vaccine manufacturers for direct purchase of Covid jabs including Sputnik V, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.
While Moderna and Pfizer have refused to supply vaccines directly to the Punjab government, saying they deal only with the Centre, other firms haven't yet responded, according to Garg.
Badal decried the Congress-led Punjab government for not giving any relief to the people in this time of crisis and allegedly befooling them by claiming that it had affected a 20 per cent reduction in power tariff when nothing of this sort had been done.
If the Congress government is really serious about providing relief to the common man and industry, it should have waived electricity bills for a six-month period.