Chandigarh: After facing severe backlash for allegedly selling Covaxin doses to private hospitals at over and above the prices they were procured from the Centre, the Capt Amarinder Singh-led Punjab government no Friday withdrew its previous order of providing one time-limited vaccine doses to 18-44 years age group population through private hospitals.

A brief letter – signed by Vikas Garg, the state-in-charge for COVID-19 vaccination –  said that the order “has not been taken in the right spirit and is hereby withdrawn”. It directed private hospitals to return all vaccine doses available with them. The doses which they have utilised as of date should also be returned, once they get supplies from the manufacturers, the notice said. The money deposited by the hospitals in the Vaccine Fund will be refunded, the order added. 

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Earlier today, Punjab’s Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu ordered a probe into the Oppositions’ allegations that the state government has been diverting Covid vaccines to private hospitals.

Without going into the specifics of the allegations, he said he will first wait for the entire picture to emerge. “The vaccine programme is not concerned with my Health Department and is under the control of Chief Secretary and Vikas Garg, who is the state’s nodal officer for the vaccination drive,” Sidhu said. 

SAD Alleges ‘Vaccien Scam’

His response was at the outset of allegations posed by Punjab’s opposition party SAD which accused the state’s Congress government of diverting Covid vaccines to private hospitals at hefty margins. Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, in a statement on Thursday alleged that vaccine doses were not available in the state but they were being sold to private institutions. 

In a series of Tweets, SAD chief claimed that a Covaxin dose costing Rs 400 to the state was being sold to private institutions at Rs 1,060. He further alleged that the private hospitals are further charging people Rs 1,560 for each dose. This amounts to a cost of Rs 6,000 to Rs 9,000 per family for a single dose. The government was also punishing people by forcing them to cough up Rs 1,560 per dose during a time of economic slowdown, Sukhbir Badal added. 

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BJP Takes Swipe At Congress Over Internal Fight In Punjab

Reacting to the ongoing controversy, BJP leaders Prakash Javadekar and Anurag Thakur slammed the Punjab government and asked whether the Congress party in Punjab was committed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

Javadekar said Punjab is badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no proper management of inoculation drive in the state. The state government is also not paying adequate attention to testing and other measures that need to be taken to contain the spread, he alleged.

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