Odisha on Tuesday wrote to the Centre proposing country-level procurement of global COVID-19 vaccines by the union government stating that it would be "faster and economical". The Odisha government said it will bear the cost of the vaccines for the people of the state.
In a letter to Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, Odisha's Health Minister Naba Kishore Das said the state may be given flexibility to design and decide on distribution of vaccines taking local factors into consideration. He said the state government cannot make online registration mandatory in hill areas where connectivity is poor.
Mr Das said there have been media reports that states which floated global tenders are facing non-response of vaccine manufacturers and it seems the global vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer and Moderna are concerned about indemnity-related issues among others.
He said these foreign companies are willing to deal with federal-level central procurement only at this stage.
"Global vaccine manufacturers will be requiring the Central Government statutory clearances for supplying to the states. Since the above are in the domain of the Union Government, it might be faster and economical if the procurement of global vaccines ore made at the country level rather than by individual states," Mr Das wrote.
The Odisha Minister said the state wants to complete vaccination at the earliest so as to prevent an expected third wave and save lives and livelihood and vaccines will be provided free to people of the state.
"Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is committed to providing vaccines free-of-cost to our people and the state will bear the necessary cost of the vaccines. However, states may be given the given flexibility to design and decide on the distribution of vaccines taking local factors into consideration," Mr Das said.
He said the state has vaccinated over 61 lakh people with at least one dose, vaccinating at rate of two lakh people per day in early April but due to vaccine supply constraints, it is able to vaccinate 60,000 to 70,000 people per day even though capacity to vaccinate is three lakh people daily.
The letter said Odisha immediately placed order for 220 lakh doses of Covishield vaccine with Serum Institute of India (SII) and 10.34 lakh doses of Covaxin with Bharat Biotech. It said SII has only supplied 5,78,480 doses of Covishield while the state has received 1,65,490 more doses of Covaxin so far.
"It is inadequate in view of huge demand across Odisha. Looking at supply problem in direct purchase, Odisha floated flexible global tender with approval of state cabinet, including liberal conditions with respect to performance security, penalties, advance payments and also extended datelines," it said.
Mr Das said "limited response" was observed during pre-bid stage and SII and Bharat Biotech have not participated in pre-bid meeting.
"It is understood that at their present capacity they won't be able to provide vaccines in scale to states and there is an urgent need to scale up their capacities," he said.
Mr Das said vaccination has been a game-changer in most countries in saving both lives and the economy. "It is important that we complete vaccination on a war footing before the onset of o possible third wave. In view of the urgency of the issue, we look forward to early action in this regard and assure our continued cooperation to defeat COVID- 19, " he said.
The Odisha minister said internet connectivity is poor in many hilly terrains and "we can't make online registration mandatory in those districts".
Mr Das said state would like to do priority vaccination for plus-two students and their families.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had on Monday written to 11 Chief Ministers of non-BJP ruled states for pressing the Centre to procure COVID-19 vaccines. However, unlike Odisha, he had sought free distribution of the vaccines to states.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)