In Maharashtra, MVA and BJP trade blame over vaccine supply

The row between the Centre and the Maharashtra government over COVID-19 vaccine roll-out has turned into a full-blown slanging match between the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik on Thursday alleging that the French Embassy in India had procured the Moderna vaccine and that it was being administered to its nationals in Navi Mumbai despite only three other vaccines being permitted in the country.

Mr. Malik, the State Minority Affairs Minister, sought to know from the Centre how a ‘non-permitted’ vaccine is allowed to be administered to the residents of France and their relatives living here.

“Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V are the 3 vaccines that are permitted in India by our government. According to information received by me, the French Embassy in India has procured the [Moderna] vaccine and is inoculating their citizens and their relatives at Navi Mumbai with the help of Apollo Hospitals, Mumbai. The question arises, how can a non-permitted vaccine be allowed to be administered?” Mr. Malik said on Twitter.

He said if the French Embassy staff could get the jab, then why couldn’t the Indian government get it for Indian citizens as well. “The Central government and the Union Health Minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, must clarify,” said Mr. Malik.

In response, a spokesperson from Apollo Hospitals clarified that the vaccines were imported by the concerned consulate and that the hospital was merely administering it.

“The vaccines were procured by the French Consulate for its residents and staff, and Apollo is only administering them. This process is approved by the Union Health Ministry, the Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI) and the External Affairs Ministry,” said the spokesperson.

Meanwhile, Pune BJP MLA Siddharth Shirole hit out at Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, alleging that Mr. Thackeray had given first priority to Mumbai as it was the Shiv Sena’s bastion, while leaving Pune, the worst-hit district in the country, in the lurch.

Mr. Shirole, the BJP legislator from Shivajinagar, claimed that the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), which is controlled by the BJP, had, as early as April 20, proposed to Mr. Thackeray that it would procure 25 lakh vaccines for Pune’s citizens using its own funds, but that the Chief Minister had not given his assent on it yet.

“How is it that the Mumbai civic body, which is controlled by the Sena, becomes the first to float a global tender for vaccines. What is the Chief Minister’s justification in making Pune wait for more than three weeks to revert to its request, while another city [Mumbai] gets the same approval for the same request within 24 hours?” said Mr. Shirole.

Lashing out at the allegedly discriminatory political behaviour on part of the ruling government, Mr. Shirole accused Mr. Thackeray of ignoring the interests of the entire State to protect Mumbai, and squarely blamed the rising cases in Pune on the mismanagement of the MVA’s vaccination drive.

“There is still no update on Pune’s dashboard that will share real-time info of vaccines received from the Centre and their city-wise distribution. There has been absolutely no communication on partnerships, orders placed, or even negotiations with vaccine manufacturers. The PMC is competent, and with the support of industry, has the capacity to buy its own vaccines. But the Chief Minister is yet to give its assent on this,” he said, adding that he spoke with the BJP’s Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, on this matter.

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