Pinarayi Vijayan's reign in Kerala has set a significant precedent in demanding free vaccinations for the Indian people to beat the COVID-19 pandemic. The state has passed a unanimous resolution in the assembly on Wednesday with a strong demand to the Modi-led Central government urging to make the vaccination drive free for all. It is the first resolution adopted by the assembly since Vijayan took office as the Chief Minister for the second consecutive time.
The adoption has also made Kerala the first state in India to pass the resolution demanding free COVID-19 vaccinations. According to reports, Kerala's Health Minister Veena George has moved the resolution in the assembly amid the dearth of vaccines in the state. The resolution has also requested the Central government for timely distribution of the vaccines to the states.
The resolution has come when the opposition parties have been staunchly demanding the Center for free vaccinations and timely and adequate distribution of vaccine doses to the states. After moving the resolution in the assembly, Veena George said, "In order to fight COVID-19, we need to provide free universal vaccination which will ensure that all sections of the society are protected from the virus."
By citing that the first wave of COVID-19 had weakened the economy and the country is now facing the second wave, the health minister said, "If we could take necessary steps for speeding up the vaccination, it would help the economy too." She further urged everyone to join hands to combat the pandemic and ensure universal vaccination. The resolution has broken the political lines as the opposition party in the Kerala assembly had voted in favour of the resolution.
The members of the ruling CPI(M) and the Congress-headed United Democratic Front had unanimously backed the resolution after suggesting minor changes. According to reports, the resolution has come two days after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to 11 Chief Ministers of non-BJP states seeking a unified effort to urge the Center to rollout free of cost COVID-19 vaccinations across the country.
Kerala Chief Minister has said that the state's financial crisis would deteriorate if the burden of procuring vaccines is levied entirely on the states. He said, "At this juncture when the nation is passing through the second surge, it is quite unfortunate that there appears to be an attempt by the Center to absolve itself of its bounden duty to provide an adequate supply of vaccine to the states."
Apart from Vijayan, his West Bengal and Jharkhand counterparts had also urged the Center to provide free vaccination, at least for the people between the age of 18 to 44. Several opposition parties had welcomed the resolution passed by the Kerala assembly and it has fueled the demand for free vaccinations from across the country.
It must be noted that as per the existing vaccine procurement policy, the states can directly buy up to 50 per cent of their vaccine needs from manufacturers at higher prices than the prices fixed for the doses for Center's procurement. Currently, the Serum Institute of India's Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin are being inoculated to the Indian people and recently, the Central government has given its approval of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, which will become the third vaccine to be approved in India.