Mamata says Bengal govt capable enough to procure Covid-19 vaccine
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has said the state government is capable enough to procure the Covid-19 vaccine for the people of Bengal, seeking to pre-empt the replay of a publicity stunt the Centre had staged in Bihar before the Assembly polls there.
“Give us the necessary instructions and inform us of the source from which the vaccine has to be procured. Our state government is ready,” Mamata said in Bankura on Monday.
The chief minister’s comments came a day before her scheduled virtual meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Covid-19 vaccination and allied issues.
“They will make claims about giving the vaccine injections right away but will take at least six to eight months to actually send them. If we can spend Rs 1.5-2.5 lakh on the treatment of a (critical) Covid-19 patient, we can take care of the injections too,” Mamata said.
Sources in the Trinamul Congress said the chief minister was aware that the BJP might try to make Covid vaccination an issue in the run-up to next year’s Assembly polls in Bengal.
The BJP had promised free Covid-19 vaccines for everyone in Bihar while releasing its election manifesto there. Although the Election Commission had concluded the promise did not violate the model code, health experts had said such promises were premature, given the lack of clarity over which candidate vaccine might clear the tests and when.
At the meeting with Modi on Tuesday, Mamata is expected to underscore the demand that the state health department be made the nodal agency for Covid-19 vaccination, a source at Nabanna, the state secretariat, said.
“We have heard that Niced (the Centre’s National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases) can be made the nodal agency for Covid-19 vaccination in Bengal. We want the health department to be made the nodal agency — that will help implement the vaccination plans and processes smoothly here,” a state government official said.
He claimed Niced lacked the infrastructure to undertake a vaccination programme on such a large scale — Bengal has a population above 10 crore — and could end up delaying the entire process.
“The state wants prompt vaccination without avoidable delay, through the health department. For this, we are ready to buy the vaccines from the producers directly, if necessary,” said another official.