With a lot of talk around how states could provide COVID-19 vaccines for free after the Union government's new vaccination policy, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan reiterated that the state will continue giving it out for free. "The state government has earlier declared that the vaccine will be free here. We do not have the practice of changing our word every now and then," he said in response to a question, taking a dig at the Union government asking states to buy from vaccine companies if they need more than what's allotted.
"The new vaccination policy of the Union government has affected the states including Kerala. It says that only 50% of the vaccines generated by the companies need to be given to the Union government (which will then allot it to states). The rest of the vaccines can be bought by states directly from the companies,â€ť said CM Pinarayi at a press meet he called to talk about the second wave of the coronavirus and the state's capacity to deal with it.
The Serum Institute, which produces Covishield, will sell it to states for Rs 400 while the Union government gets the same at a price of Rs 150. For private institutions, this price will be Rs 600. â€śKerala had been on a campaign to vaccinate everyone in the state aged 45 or above by May 20, providing 2.5 lakh doses each day. But because of the vaccine shortage, this can't happen now," the CM added.
On Tuesday, a day after the Union government announced the new policy, the Chief Minister had written to the Prime Minister, pointing out that free vaccines should be provided to the states. He pointed out that buying doses of vaccine will be an added expense amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
After testing over three lakh samples over the last three days, more than 60,000 people were found to be positive for the coronavirus in Kerala. On Wednesday, another 22,414 cases of COVID-19 were reported in the state. The same day, 22 more deaths were reported, taking the total death toll to 5,000 so far.
Of all the people who reached Kerala from other countries in recent days, 11 have been detected with the genetic variants of the COVID-19 virus.
A total of 5,431 people recovered from the disease on Wednesday, taking the total number of recoveries to 11,54,102.
The Chief Minister gave a count of the number of hospitals and ICU beds in the state, and the plan to have a COVID First-Line Treatment Centre in every taluk. He advised people to avoid the three Cs at all cost, namely, crowding, closed spaces and close contacts. The CM sought the cooperation of local bodies in spreading maximum awareness about vaccination as well as following the COVID-19 protocol in these crucial times.
"Ward-level committees will be formed for this. This will include ward members, ASHA workers, health workers, police representatives, volunteers and revenue officials," he added.
The CM also said that the state has enough oxygen supply, a concern at a time many states are suffering from a shortage.