Chandigarh: Under fire from the opposition and the Centre on the charge of profiteering amid a pandemic, the Punjab government withdrew its order on selling Centre-allocated Covid-19 vaccines to private hospitals. The Congress government said the decision had not been taken in the "right spirit".
The Amarinder Singh-led state government has been at the receiving end for diverting vaccine doses allocated by the Centre to private hospitals in the state and earning a profit. The government is alleged to have sold doses of Covaxin, procured for Rs 400, to private health facilities for Rs 1,060. The private hospitals then charged people Rs 1,560 a shot. According to the government, about 42,000 doses were allotted to private hospitals. Of these, it claimed, only 600 doses were administered to people in the age group of 18-44 years.
The state government has directed private hospitals to return all vaccine doses available with them, while the doses that they have utilised are to be returned once they get direct supplies from manufacturers. The government will refund the amount deposited by the private hospitals in the vaccine fund.
Punjab health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said the instruction to provide one-time limited vaccine doses to private hospitals has been withdrawn on the directions of the chief minister, Capt Amarinder Singh. He said instructions have been issued to all civil surgeons not to make fresh allotments to private hospitals. Sidhu said since the Punjab government was committed to providing all treatment services to Covid patients without discrimination at government hospitals, vaccines also would be free. He said the state government had already declared in Budget 2021-22 that each eligible beneficiary would be vaccinated for free and that the state would bear all expenses.