Punjab withdraws order to supply COVID vaccines to private hospitals amid accusations of profiteering

New Delhi: The Centre has sought a clarification from the Punjab government following media reports alleging that it “sold” COVID-19 vaccine to private hospitals and “earned a profit”.

Prima facie, it is in clear violation of the Liberalized Pricing and Accelerated National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy, said Additional Secretary in the Health Ministry Vandana Gurnani to the principal secretary of the Punjab government’s Health Department.

“As you are aware, from May 1, 2021, the Liberalized Pricing and Accelerated National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy have come into force. According to this strategy, private sector hospitals are directly procuring COVID-l9 vaccines from the vaccine manufacturers,” the letter said.

“The state government is, therefore, requested to confirm the veracity of this news article and send a clarification to MoHFW immediately in this regard,” she said.

Under flak from the opposition for “diverting” COVID-19 vaccines to private hospitals, the Punjab government on Friday asked them to return all stock meant for the 18-44 age group.

The order of providing one time limited vaccine doses to 18-44 years age group population through private hospitals is withdrawn. Private hospitals should return all vaccine doses available with them: Punjab Government pic.twitter.com/BXnNVgiB8o

— ANI (@ANI) June 4, 2021

The turnabout came after opposition parties – Shiromani Akali Dal, Aam Aadmi Party, and Bharatiya Janata Party – slammed the Congress government for “selling” to private hospitals doses meant to be administered free.

“The order of providing one-time limited vaccine dose to 18-44 years age group population through private hospitals has not been taken in the right spirit and is hereby withdrawn,” the government note said.

“Further, it has been decided that the private hospitals should return forthwith all the vaccine doses available with them,” Vikas Garg, who is in charge of Punjab’s Covid vaccination programme, said in the order.

Once they get their own direct supplies from the manufacturers, the private hospitals will also return to the state government the doses they have already used up.

Hours before the development Friday evening, state Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said he has ordered a probe into the allegations.

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