In what has become his second address to the nation since the emergence of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has on Monday delivered a televised address to the nation during which he announced the revamping of the Covid vaccination policy in the country and providing free rations to the people amid battling the second wave of the pandemic.
His address has come when the country has reported the lowest single-day COVID-19 cases for the first time in two months and it would probably be the last address before the beginning of the third wave of the pandemic. Amid large scale expectations, the Prime Minister addressed the nation and in a 30-minute long speech, he said that the Union government will take over the vaccination drive to vaccinate the 18-44 age group along with the age group above 45 years.
Announcing a new vaccination policy, the Prime Minister said that the Union government will vaccinate those above the age of 18 for free from June 21. He stated that the government will procure 75% of the vaccines produced in the country from the makers and distribute them to the states for free. The remaining 25% of the vaccines produced in the country would be procured by the private sector directly from vaccine makers.
He highlighted that every state will be priorly informed on how many doses will be provided and when they will be provided. The Prime Minister had directly blamed the state governments for demanding decentralization of the vaccination drive and then not being able to address the obstacles. He said, "It is good that states do everything, since health is a state subject, and in this direction, the Union government formed a liberalized vaccination policy."
"The Union government has been monitoring the vaccination drive and India was moving ahead with its free vaccination policy and people were also waiting for their turns to get vaccinated. The states had then asked to decentralize the process and they had asked why is Center deciding the age group and why are senior citizens getting first?", the Prime Minister added.
He said, "Today, it has decided that the 25% work that was given to the states will also be borne by the Union government. This will be implemented in the next two weeks and new guidelines will be issued. From June 21, the government will provide free vaccines to all citizens above the age of 18." He asserted that 75% of vaccines will be procured by the Union government and will be distributed to the states for free of cost and with the new policy, the states won't be spending on vaccines.
During the address, the Prime Minister said, "This is the deadliest pandemic in the past 100 years. The modern world has not seen such a pandemic. Our country has fought this pandemic at many levels". He recalled that new health infrastructure has been developed in 1.5 years with Covid hospitals, ventilator beds, and testing labs, and the demand for medical oxygen was increased at an unprecedented rate during the second wave of the pandemic in April -May.
He said, "There is very less number of vaccine manufacturers in the world compared to its demand. Imagine what would have happened in India if we didn't have vaccines. If you look at the history of the last 50-60 yrs, you will know that it used to take decades for India to get vaccines from abroad". "Vaccine supply will be increasing in the coming days. Seven companies in the country are producing different vaccines and three vaccine trials are at an advanced stage", he added.
He stated, "In the last one year, India had launched two made-in-India vaccines. Today more than 23 crores vaccine doses administered." He said, "To increase vaccine availability, the process of procuring vaccines from abroad has been sped up. Experts have also expressed concerns about children. In this direction, the trial of two vaccines is underway. Research is being conducted for a nasal vaccine in the country".
With the view of addressing the financial burden and distress endured by most of the people amid the pandemic, the Prime Minister has announced free rations till Diwali. He said, "Government has decided to extend Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana till Diwali. 80 crore poor will be provided free ration, under the scheme". As the Prime Minister has announced a centralized vaccine drive, the President of the Indian Medical Association had welcomed it.
Dr Jayapal, the President of the Indian Medical Association, said, "We thank PM Modi for this important announcement of universal vaccination for all to be carried out by the Government of India. IMA is constantly and proactively supporting the vaccination drive initiated by the Prime Minister". It must be noted that the Prime Minister's address has come days after the Supreme Court came hard on the Union government over its vaccination policy by labelling it arbitrary and irrational.