India will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2021, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar declared Friday, as the centre lashed out after Congress MP Rahul Gandhi pointed out that less than three per cent of the country’s 130 crore people had received both doses.
Mr Javadekar drew Rahul Gandhi’s attention to a Union Health Ministry “blueprint” that, he said, would ensure the vaccination of 108 crore people by December, and reminded him “India is the second-fastest in vaccinating its people”; over 20 crore doses have been administered so far.
“India’s vaccination will be completed before 2021. The Health Ministry has given a blueprint. 108 people – with 216 crore doses – will be vaccinated by December. Rahulji… if you’re concerned about vaccination then pay attention to Congress ruled states… there is a mess. They are not taking the quota given to them for 18-44 year old beneficiaries from May 1,” Mr Javadekar said.
He also deflected further criticism by telling Mr Gandhi to “pay attention to Congress-ruled states…there is a mess in vaccination”, and accusing non-BJP governments, which have red-flagged low vaccine stocks, of “not taking the quota for 18-44 age group given to them from May 1”.
The Union Minister also hit out at Mr Gandhi and his party colleagues for questioning Covaxin – the vaccine developed and manufactured by Bharat Biotech. Covaxin was approved in January but there were questions marks over its safety and efficacy, after it was passed without key trial data.
Those results were eventually released in March and Covaxin showed 81 per cent efficacy.
Hours earlier Mr Gandhi said Prime Minister Modi “did not understand Covid at all”.
The ex-Congress chief, who has repeatedly questioned the centre over the slow pace of vaccination, said vaccines were the only permanent solution against the virus, and India would remain at risk of “multiple” waves of infection without a proper strategy.
Vaccine supplies have become a sore subject in India, with several states insisting they do not have enough doses to vaccinate both age groups – 18-44 and 45+.
Many of these states – which include Maharashtra, BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh and national capital Delhi – have floated global tenders to buy vaccines after the centre, effectively, said it would only supply 50 per cent of required doses.
The centre, however, insists states do have enough doses and has accused them of wastage. On Thursday, Madhya Pradesh – a BJP-ruled state – joined others in hitting back over this charge.
The centre on Thursday released a “myth and facts” sheet in which it criticised “some of our leaders” and said it was working hard to approve new vaccines and scale up production.
This morning India reported over 1.86 lakh new COVID-19 cases – the lowest daily increase in 44 days – but still a significant surge in numbers.