Local bodies mull direct purchase of vaccine

District officials say there is no govt directive permitting move

Being increasingly on the receiving end of the public ire over the shortage of COVID-19 vaccine, a section of local bodies in the district are exploring the seemingly improbable option of direct purchase of the vaccine.

The health standing committee of the Maradu municipality took a decision along a similar line on Thursday and is now set to place it before the council for approval before forwarding it to the State government.

“Nearly 3,000 residents of the municipality aged above 60 years who are now due for the second dose of the vaccine are clamouring for it and constantly ringing up councillors. We are prepared to buy the vaccine directly using our own funds as it assumes priority over any other development works at the moment. We are also open to contribute to the State government’s vaccine challenge if that guarantees vaccine to municipal residents,” said Antony Asanparambil, Maradu Municipal Chairman.

The Perumbavoor municipality is also thinking about direct purchase of vaccines if the State government permits it. “We have limited own funds but will still explore that possibility if things come to it. We may even consider collecting donations from our people through a challenge to supplement funds for vaccine purchase,” said municipal chairperson Zakeer Hussain. The municipality had successfully run a mass vaccination camp but had to drop the idea of a second one owing to vaccine shortage.

Rema Santhosh, Thripunithura municipal chairperson, however, found the idea improbable as she doubted whether local bodies are even allowed to go for direct purchase. “Even if it is permissible, a decision can only be taken after consultations with the council,” she said.

Malathy K.V., Deputy Director of Panchayats, Ernakulam, said there was no government order as yet allowing local bodies to go for direct purchase of the vaccine.

In Varapuzha panchayat, which is now a containment zone in its entirety, authorities remain apprehensive of protests by people over not receiving the jab. “On Friday, a 72-year-old, who is due for the second dose, threatened to stage a protest in front of the panchayat office. People are getting restless with the shortage of vaccine delaying the second dose. We have written to the District Collector to officially announce if a longer period between the two doses is permissible, to calm people down,” said Kochurani Joseph, Varapuzha panchayat president.

The panchayat had set a model of sorts by vaccinating almost the entire population aged above 60 by running a week-long multiple mass vaccination camps.

M.G. Sivadas, district nodal officer for immunisation, said that he was not aware whether local bodies were allowed to buy the vaccine directly and what the protocol could be if that was the case.

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