After reports emerged alleging that Punjab government “sold” Covid-19 vaccine to private hospitals and "earned a profit", the centre on Friday sought a clarification from it.
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 Accelerate National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy has 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 vaccines to private hospitals, the Punjab government on Friday asked them to return all stock meant for the 18-44 age group.
The dramatic 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dose to 18-44 years age group population through private hospitals has not been taken in the right spirit and is hereby withdrawn," the government note said.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.
(With PTI inputs.)