No reason to hide COVID-19 deaths; vaccine production increasing, Health Minister tells Rajya Sabha

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Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told the Rajya Sabha that vaccine production in the country is increasing and the effort is to inoculate all adults at the earliest. He refuted the allegation of hiding COVID deaths and said that the Central government compiles and publishes data sent by the state government.

No reason to hide COVID-19 deaths; vaccine production increasing, Health Minister tells Rajya Sabha
Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Tuesday informed the Rajya Sabha that COVID-19 vaccine production in the country is increasing and the effort is to inoculate all adults at the earliest.
He refuted the allegation of hiding COVID-19 deaths and said that the Central government compiles and publishes data sent by the state government.
States governments register deaths. "Our job is to publish that data and nothing else. We haven't told anyone to show fewer numbers (of deaths) or less positive cases. There's no reason for that," he said. The minister said the Prime Minister had repeatedly asked chief ministers to do large numbers of testing and record deaths.
"There is no reason to hide deaths but whom are you blaming? Who does registration? States do. Who decides on statistics? States do. Government of India compiles and publishes data received from the states," Mandaviya said. Taking part in the discussion earlier, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjuna Kharge said the government's COVID-19 death toll figure of 4-5 lakh is "false" and conservative and claimed the average number of deaths cannot be less than 52.4 lakh so far in the country.
The minister insisted that the Centre has never done politics over the pandemic. "We never said that this state failed or that state didn't do this. I don't want to do politics but many states have 10-15 lakh doses of vaccines with them (and yet are complaining of shortage)."
On the vaccine production, the minister said the Serum Institute has started supplying 11-12 crore doses per month and Bharat Biotech will start giving 3.5 crore doses per month from August. He said the transfer of technology to several companies has started and they will begin production in the coming days to reduce vaccine shortage in the country.
He justified the export of vaccines and said it has helped India in getting raw material from abroad. "We started Vaccine Maitri because we live with the essence of 'Shubh Labh', helping others in times of crisis," he said.
The Opposition members also questioned the government's preparedness to tackle a possible third wave of the pandemic and suggested for better coordination with the state governments. In his reply, the minister said, "The crisis should not be the reason for politics.... All 130 crore people, all governments...should take a pledge together that we will not let the third wave come. Our pledge, (PM Narendra) Modi ji's guidance can save us from the third wave.
The Prime Minister has accepted this and held discussions and meetings with states 20 times. Any matter put forward from the level of chief minister then, Modi ji has taken it seriously." He said that when the state governments asked for powers to procure vaccines, the Prime Minister agreed and the states went ahead with tenders but no company came forward to supply vaccines to them. In response to a question on the lockdown in March 2020, Mandaviya said the country then needed to build infrastructure, medical gears, laboratories, etc. to handle the pandemic.
He said the Prime Minister had alerted everyone to make arrangements even before the first case was reported in the country in January 2020.
(With inputs from PTI)

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