Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday said the government will provide the COVID-19 vaccine free of cost for everyone in the state.
"Vaccines will be provided free of cost for everyone in Kerala. We don't have the habit of changing our stance like others. We had announced free vaccines in the State," he said, taking a dig at prime minister Narendra Modi for allowing States to procure vaccines directly from the manufacturers at a higher price than what is provided for the central government.
This statement comes on a day the Serum Institute of India announced a price of Rs 400 per dose for its COVID-19 vaccine 'Covishield' for State governments and Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals.
The SII had, in a statement, said, "Fifty per cent of our capacities will be served to the Central government's vaccination drive and the remaining 50 per cent will be for the State governments and private hospitals."
"The Centre has asked the State governments to purchase the vaccine from the vaccine-makers. The governments are already reeling under a financial crisis. This decision will create additional burden on State governments," he said.
In a press meet held after he recovered from COVID-19, the chief minister said there was shortage of vaccine in the state and it has affected the goal of the government to administer 2.5 lakh doses per day.
"Our aim was to provide a vaccine to 2.5 lakh people per day in the State so that 1,13,00,000 people above the age of 45 can be vaccinated by May 20. But, this has been affected due to shortage of vaccines. Now, we need to administer 3,70,000 vaccines per day to achieve that goal," Pinarayi said.
He asked the Centre to take steps to make available the necessary quantity of vaccines.
The State, which had requested for 50 lakh doses of vaccine to implement its vaccination plan, had so far received only 5.5 lakh doses, he said.
Because of this, the government was forced to stop on- the-spot registration thereby hampering efforts to deal with the rapid surge, he said and urged the Centre to allot the balance doses at the earliest.
Pinarayi had on Tuesday written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the additional burden of purchasing the vaccines would strain the State's finances, hence the vaccines should be distributed free of cost.
(With inputs from PTI)