Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday wrote to 11 CMs of non-BJP ruled states seeking a united effort to press the Centre to procure COVID-19 vaccines and ensure free universal vaccination. "Wrote to 11 CMs in the spirit of Cooperative Federalism. Quite unfortunate that Centre absolves itself of its duty to procure vaccines, ensure free universal vaccination.United effort to jointly pursue our genuine demand is the need of the hour, so that Centre acts immediately," Vijayan tweeted.
In his letter, the Chief Minister said statements to the effect that the responsibility to provide vaccine entirely falls within the realm of the states defy the very basis of the co-operative federal system.
"The need of the hour is a united effort from our side to put forth the genuine demand that the Centre should procure vaccine needed by the states and distribute them free of cost.This will be more cost effective as well," Vijayan said in the letter.
He said vaccine manufacturing companies are engaged in looking for financial gains by exploiting the scarce supply situation and foreign pharmaceutical companies are unwilling to enter into agreement with the states for procuring vaccines.
Noting that India has public sector pharmaceutical companies which are capable of taking up vaccine production, the CM said the Government of India should take necessary steps to ensure that intellectual property rights and patent laws and conventions do not stand in the way of manufacturing COVID-19 vaccine, which should have the status of a public good.
"Options like compulsory licensing should be explored by the Union Government," he said.
Vijayan said if the burden of procuring vaccine is left to fall entirely or even substantially on the states, their fiscal situation will be in dire straits.
"Fiscal strength of the States is an essential part of a healthy federal setup.If the States'finances are hamstrung, federalism itself will be weakened and this will not augur well for a democratic polity like ours. Further, this will impede the efforts for early building of herd immunity," he said.
Vijayan said herd immunity will be effective only when a substantial section of the population is vaccinated.
As on date, only 3.1 per cent of the people have been administered two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, he said.
Attacking the Centre's alleged stand that the states should resort to their own measures to procure COVID-19 vaccine, the Chief Minister said, "at this juncture, when the nation is passing through the second surge, it is quite unfortunate that there appears to be an attempt by the Centre to absolve itself of its bounden duty to provide adequate supply of vaccine to the states."
"The impact of the second surge has been unprecedented, putting all of us in a state of alarm."
"Besides, experts have warned that a third surge of COVID-19 incidence is highly likely.This necessitates our heightened preparation and vigil to meet that eventuality too," he said.
Along with this letter to fellow CMs, Vijayan also enclosed the copy of a letter he had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi citing the merits of the Centre taking the lead in assessing vaccine requirements of the states and floating a global tender considering the needs of all states.
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