Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday alleged the government was busy saving the prime minister's image while COVID-19 took its toll on the people of the country, drawing a sharp retort from Health Minister Harsh Vardhan who accused him of making "mythical claims" and politicising the issue.
"India needs quick and complete vaccination, not BJP's usual brand of lies and rhyming slogans to cover up vaccine shortage caused by Modi Government's inaction," the Congress leader said on Twitter.
"GOI's constant attempts to save PM's fake image are facilitating the virus and costing people's lives," he added, citing reports that some members of the scientific group were not in agreement of doubling the gap between two doses of COVID-19 vaccine Covishield.
India needs quick & complete vaccination- not BJP's usual brand of lies & rhyming slogans to cover-up vaccine shortage caused by Modi Govt's inaction.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) June 16, 2021
GOI's constant attempts to save PM's fake image are facilitating the virus & costing people's lives. pic.twitter.com/UUeRpDabSD
In a sharp retort, Mr Vardhan said, "Signor @RahulGandhi continues to remain lost in a mythical land furthering mythical claims without checking any facts! Protecting family's name and crown is @INCIndia's business."
"GoI is dedicated to serving the people and safeguarding lives and livelihoods during this pandemic," he added.
Signor @RahulGandhi continues to remain lost in a mythical land furthering mythical claims without checking any facts!— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) June 16, 2021
Protecting family's name & crown is @INCIndia's business.
GoI is dedicated to serving the people & safeguarding lives & livelihoods during this #pandemicpic.twitter.com/YwtGDPwqeZ
In another tweet, he denied the news reports, saying "decision to increase the gap between administering 2 doses of COVISHIELD has been taken in a transparent manner based on scientific data. India has a robust mechanism to evaluate data."
"It's unfortunate that such an important issue is being politicised," Mr Vardhan alleged.
Hitting back, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that instead of abusing the opposition he should plan to vaccinate the adult population of the country.
"So says a Health Minister and government, whose ''Himalayan Mismanagement'' of Vaccination over last 6 months (16th Jan-16th June) reflects in - Only 3.51% of population vaccinated with both doses. Average per day Vaccination is mere 17.23 lakh per day over the last 6 months," he said.
At this pace of 17.23 lakh vaccinations per day, Surjewala said, it will take 944 days more to vaccinate all of 94.50 crore adults with both doses i.e until January 16, 2024.
"Can India afford to wait this long? How will you tackle the 3rd wave? Instead of abusing the Opposition, please plan this," he said.
Another Congress leader, Jairam Ramesh, asked on whose advice the government claimed to increase the gap between 1st and 2nd doses of Covishield to 12-16 weeks, while quoting scientists who said they recommended only 8-12 weeks.
He asked Vardhan to clarify whether vaccine shortage was a key factor in extending the gap.
Mr Ramesh said, "Asking questions isn't politicising! It's based on what scientists are themselves saying. There's genuine concern around prevalence of the ''Delta'' variant and the impact of extended gap between 2 doses of Covishield on the safety of our citizens."
"Rate of COVID-19 vaccination was 29 lakh doses/day in 1st half of June. This MUST increase by at least 3 times in a few weeks. Only then can we FULLY vaccinate at least 100 cr Indians (approx 75 percent population) by Dec '21. The Modi Government hasn't yet shared a weekly roadmap on how to achieve this," Ramesh tweeted.
Congress has been alleging that there is a vaccine shortage in the country and that the current rate of vaccination is very slow.