Mumbai: Ministers at the state cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray were unanimous in the view that the Centre could not simply pass on the responsibility of universal vaccination to the states. They made a strong case for the provision of funds, considering the straitened financial circumstances of the state. The cabinet decided to seek clarity on the revised universal vaccination policy announced on Monday on the import of vaccines, the 50-50 sharing of vaccination spending--whether it would cover 50 per cent of the state’s 12 crore population or 50 per cent of the people in the 18 to 45 age group.
The cabinet was unanimous that if the Centre were to shrug off responsibility, the state government would raise money from its resources and borrowings to fund the universal vaccination drive. Further, the cabinet said the government would make bids to procure Covishield and Covaxin and at the same time, would import vaccines from other countries.
Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope said the government would divert funds from all departments to conduct an extensive inoculation campaign, on the lines of the UK. “The cabinet has decided to carry out an exemplary vaccination drive. If required, we will slash funds for all other departments, to ensure availability of vaccines for people,” he added.
The state would like to follow the example of the United Kingdom, which had witnessed a severe spike in Covid cases last year, he said.
“Today, 60 per cent of the UK's population is vaccinated. Very few new cases are being detected, while the death toll is in single digits. The entire country was kept under lockdown for three months and the vaccination drive was carried out on a massive scale,” he said.
“We have decided to cut expenses of all departments and divert the funds for vaccine procurement. We will not limit our plans only to Covishield and Covaxin that are manufactured in the country. The state government will bid for vaccines made abroad such as Sputnik-V, Pfizer, Johnson&Johnson and Moderna, if these are available,” the minister said.
“The state’s vaccination drive will cover people in the age group of 18 to 45, while people above 45 will be covered under the Centre’s drive for which doses will be supplied by the Centre,” he said.