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"The order of providing one-time limited vaccine doses to 18-44 years age group population through private hospitals is withdrawn.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.
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Hours before the order was withdrawn, state Health Minister BS Sidhu told reporters that he has taken cognisance of the allegations of hefty prices and would conduct an inquiry into the issue.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.