A medical worker inoculates a woman with a dose of Covishield coronavirus vaccine at a camp in Amritsar, Punjab.  (HT)

Punjab govt withdraws order to supply Covid-19 vaccines in private hospitals.

The Punjab government today issued a notification in which it said that the earlier order of providing one time-limited vaccine doses to 18-44 years age group population through private hospitals is withdrawn and private hospitals should return all vaccine doses available with them.

“The order of providing one-time limited vaccine doses to 18-44 years age group population through private hospital has not been taken in the right spirit and is hereby withdrawn. Further, it has been decided that the private hospitals should return forthwith all the vaccine doses available with them. The doses which they have not utilized as of date should also be returned back, once they get direct supplies from the manufacturers,” according to the Punjab government notification. The amount deposited by the private hospitals in the vaccine fund shall be refunded to them.

A brief letter – signed by Vikas Garg, the state-in-charge for vaccination – said the order “has not been taken in the right spirit and is hereby withdrawn”.

The order was issued amidst Punjab’s opposition party SAD had on Thursday accused the state’s Congress government of “diverting” Covid vaccines to private hospitals at “hefty margins”.

Meanwhile, Punjab’s Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu on Friday said he has ordered a probe into the Oppositions’ allegations that the state government has been “diverting” Covid vaccines to private hospitals.

Sidhu made the statement when he was specifically asked about the Oppositions’ allegation.

“What I have learnt through media, I have already ordered for a probe and we will order a proper inquiry. We will keep the issue before the chief minister,” he said.

Without going into the specifics of the allegations, he said he will first wait for the entire picture to emerge.

On the opposition allegations, Sidhu, at the outset, said the vaccine programme is not concerned with his department.

“The vaccine programme is not concerned with my Health Department and is under the control of Chief Secretary and Vikas Garg, who is the state’s nodal officer for the vaccination drive,” said Sidhu.

He said his department conducts testing, treatment and administering vaccines.

“As much as the supply of vaccines is made available to our department, we have been administering them free of cost in our hospitals and in the health camps which the department conducts,” he said.

Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, in a statement here, had alleged that vaccine doses were not available in the state but they were being sold to private institutions instead of being given free of cost to the common man.

He claimed that a Covaxin dose costing 400 to the state was being sold to private institutions at 1,060.

He said the private hospitals are further charging people 1,560 for each dose.

“This amounts to a cost of 6,000 to 9,000 per family for a single dose”.

Badal had alleged that in Mohali alone, 35,000 doses were sold to private institutions to “earn a profit” of nearly two crore in a single day.

He said it was “immoral” for the Congress government to “make a profit” from the sale of vaccines.

“The government was also punishing people by forcing them to cough up 1,560 per dose during a time of economic slowdown,” he alleged.

Badal had demanded a high court-monitored probe into how the Congress government was allegedly creating an “artificial shortage” of vaccines for the common man by selling its doses at a “hefty profit” to private hospitals, the SAD said in a statement.

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