Mamata writes to PM, seeks free vaccine for all

Hours after taking oath as the Chief Minister of West Bengal for the third time in a row, Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi advocating her long-standing demand of free-of-cost vaccination against Covid-19 for all, ensuring adequate supply of essential drugs and increasing the allocation of medical oxygen, making it obvious that Covid control will be her top priority after assuming office.

"At the very outset, I would again like to emphasise on free vaccination for all. You may kindly recall my letter dated February 24, 2021, wherein I had requested you to permit the government of West Bengal to allow procurement of vaccine from the designated points for providing vaccination to the people of the state free of cost. This has not been addressed," the Trinamool Congress supremo said in the letter.

"At present, vaccine availability is too inadequate to provide it to the eligible beneficiaries and the government of India's direction to extend vaccination to the 18 plus category makes it unrealistic to achieve. So, supply of vaccines is the core issue that needs to be address now," Banerjee said.

The Chief Minister had advocated free vaccine for all in the country during her election campaign and after the Trinamool swept the polls in Bengal, she even threatened to launch an agitation for the same.

Banerjee also urged the Prime Minister to ensure the availability of essential drugs, including Remdesivir and Tocilizumab, to the state to negotiate their rising demand.

"At least 10,000 doses of Remdesivir and 1,000 vials of Tocilizumab are the daily requirements of our state (West Bengal)," she wrote in the letter.

Worried about the rising demand of oxygen in the state, Banerjee asked the Central government to increase the allocation of the life-saving gas to avoid shortage.

"The consumption of medical oxygen in West Bengal has risen from 200 MT to 400 MT per day and it is likely to go up to 500 MT in the next seven days. The concerned authorities may kindly be advised to allocate at least 500 MT medical oxygen per day out of the total oxygen produced in Bengal on an urgent basis to prevent any shortage," she said.

Later in the day, Banerjee said in a press conference, "I am thankful to the industries that they have allowed us to use industrial oxygen for medical purpose."

The Chief Minister also expressed concern over the shortage of oxygen cylinders in the state.

"I am told that 70 PSA units have been allotted to Bengal, which is likely to take time to be installed. To meet the immediate necessity, the current system will have to be strengthened," she added.

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