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Punjab govt withdraws order to supply COVID-19 vaccines to private hospitals amid opposition's 'profiteering' charge

The amount deposited by the private hospitals in the state's vaccine fund would be "refunded to them", stated the revocation order, which has been approved by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.

June 04, 2021 / 05:51 PM IST
Representative image

Representative image

The Punjab government on June 4 withdrew the order that mandated the supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses to private hospitals. The decision came amid the opposition's "profiteering" charge leveled against the Congress government in the state.

A statement issued by the Punjab government stated that it's order has not been taken in the "right spirit", and hence it has been decided to withdraw the same.

"The order of providing one-time limited vaccine doses to 18-44 years age group population through private hospitals is withdrawn. Private hospitals should return all vaccine doses available with them," the state's Department of Health and Family Welfare said.

The amount deposited by the private hospitals in the state's vaccine fund would be "refunded to them", stated the revocation order, which has been approved by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.

Also Read | COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker: 28.7 lakh doses administered in India on June 3

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Hours before the order was withdrawn, state Health Minister BS Sidhu told reporters that he has taken cognisance of the allegations of hefty prices and would conduct an inquiry into the issue.

The CM's intervention came only after the Centre, earlier in the day, sought a report from the state government over reports that it had diverted 40,000 doses of Covaxin it had procured for Rs 400 each last month to private hospitals at a 165 percent higher price of Rs 1060, thereby making a profit of Rs 660 on each dose, which translates to over Rs 2.5 crore.

The Union Health Ministry in its letter has termed it a “prima facie violation” of the liberalised Covid-19 vaccination policy of the Centre in which private hospitals are supposed to procure supplies directly from the manufacturers and not from the state government or the Centre and sought an immediate clarification from Punjab, according to a report in News18.

The charges were earlier leveled by state's primary opposition party, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).

Union Minister Anurag Thakur also targeted the Punjab government saying that the "Punjab government profits while the poor pay this pandemic premium on vaccines," The Indian Express quoted him as saying.

With the Punjab government now withdrawing its controversial order, the private hospitals in the state would be required to directly procure the vaccines from the manufacturers to continue their inoculation drives. The jabs procured by the state would be used only for the immunisation programme rolled out at the government-run hospitals and vaccination centres.
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