New Delhi [India], June 4 (ANI): The Punjab government on Friday withdrew its earlier order of providing "one-time" limited vaccine doses to the 18-44 age group population through private hospitals after allegations by opposition of "diverting" Covaxin doses at "hefty margins", sparked a row.
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Vikas Garg, the state-in-charge for vaccination - said the order "has not been taken in the right spirit and is hereby withdrawn".
"Further, it has been decided that the private hospitals should return forthwith all the vaccine doses available with them. The doses which they have utilised as of date should also be returned, once they get supplies from the manufacturers," the order added.
Addressing a press conference, Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said, "Chief Minister ordered to recall the decision and recall all vaccines which were given to private hospitals, the government will rectify its mistake as soon as possible. The rate was not decided, we will vaccinate people free of cost, Covaxin was given to them, we received through you this news and we returned the order."
"The number of vaccines we received through the centre which we used and in future we received more vaccine and we will use. 42,000 vaccines were given to the private hospitals but only 600 vaccines are used by them," he added.
Earlier, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal had demanded a High Court-monitored probe into the alleged selling of COVID vaccine doses by the Punjab government to private hospitals for profit.
"The Punjab government is getting vaccines at Rs 400 but selling them to private hospitals at Rs 1,060. And private hospitals are administering vaccine on higher prices. A case should be registered against Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu for diverting vaccines meant for the common man to private institutions," Badal said.
He added that if this corporatization of vaccine distribution is not stopped, the SAD would be 'forced to approach the courts for justice'.
Responding to allegations by the opposition Punjab health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said his department does not have "control over vaccines" but and an inquiry will be made for the same.
Balbir Sidhu said "Opposition has only one job to make allegations against the ruling government do they are doing the same."
While speaking to reporters, Singh said that it was not his department, and an inquiry will be made for the same. "I don't have control over vaccines. This comes under the Chief Secretary and other officials. I just look over treatment, testing, sampling of COVID-19 and vaccination camps. We will definitely set an inquiry, I myself can inquire about the matter," he said.
He also said that they will release as statement once they get a full idea into the matter. "We do not have the full picture. We will get to know will release a statement. Purchasing is not my department. We have appointed several nodal officers for different departments. We will get a report and inform you." (ANI)