'Health is a state subject': Centre defends vaccine strategy in 7 points
To counter calls by states across the country on lack of supply of vaccines, the Central government said it is “allotting enough vaccines to the states in a transparent manner as per agreed guidelines”.
Defending the Centre's vaccination policy, which has entered the third phase now, Niti Aayog (health) member VK Paul on Thursday issued a statement busting seven myths regarding India's vaccination. In his statement, he also addressed issues like why many more companies are not given licences to produce vaccines, why states are not getting responses from global tenders etc.
Myth 1: Central government is not doing enough to procure vaccines from abroad
The Union government sought to counter this myth by stating the Indian government has been engaging in discussions and deliberations with International vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. The government even offered assistance for the domestic production of their vaccines. However, vaccines being in “limited supply globally” has hampered their efforts.
“Vaccines are in limited supply globally, and companies have their own priorities, game-plans and compulsions in allocating finite stocks. They also give preference to countries of their origin just as our own vaccine makers have done unhesitatingly for us,” the press release stated.
Myth 2: Centre has not approved vaccines being administered globally
The press release stated that all Covid-19 vaccines which have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, European Medicines Agency, UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, Japan’s Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency, and included by World Health Organization in its Emergency Use Listing will not be required to undergo prior bridging trial and trials for “well-established” vaccines have been waived altogether.
“No application of any foreign manufacturer for approval is pending with the drugs controller,” the release stated.
Myth 3: Center is not doing enough to ramp up domestic production of vaccines
Describing its role as that of an “effective facilitator”, the government stated that the only Indian vaccine with the Intellectual Property Right, Covaxin, will be manufactured by three other producers, and Covaxin is also ramping up its production facility, and is working on an intranasal vaccine. Covishield production is being ramped up to 11 crore doses per month and foreign vaccine Sputnik is slated to be manufactured by six companies under the coordination of Dr Reddy’s.
Myth 4: Centre should invoke compulsory licensing
Compulsory licensing allows manufacturers to produce patented goods with the permission of the patent holder. Countering that, Dr Paul said, "Think about this: Moderna had said in October 2020 that it will not sue any company which makes its vaccines, but still not one company has done it, which shows licensing is the least of the issues. If vaccine-making was so easy, why would even the developed world be so short of vaccine doses?"
Myth 5: Centre has abdicated its responsibility to the states
States are aware of how the centre is doing all the "heavy-lifting" as far as vaccination is concerned. From January to April, the government ran the entire vaccination programme and it was well-administered, "compared to the situation in May", the statement said. "Health is a state subject and the liberalised vaccine policy was a result of the incessant requests being made by the states to give states more power. The fact that global tenders have not given any results only reaffirms what we have been telling the states from day one: that vaccines are in short supply in the world and it is not easy to procure them at short notice," it said.
Myth 6: Centre is not giving enough vaccines to the states
To counter calls by states across the country on lack of supply of vaccines, the Central government said it is “allotting enough vaccines to the states in a transparent manner as per agreed guidelines”. Cautioning certain leaders, who appear on TV to “create panic” among people, “in spite of full knowledge of the facts on vaccine supply”, Dr Paul said this is not the time to play politics.
Myth 7: Centre is not taking any step towards vaccinating children
A decision on vaccinating children should not be taken on the basis of "WhatsApp group" panic, the statement said. Such decisions will be taken by scientists on the basis of trials, it said. “As of now, no country in the world is giving vaccines to children. Also, WHO has no recommendation on vaccinating children,” the statement said.