Vaccines key to tackling Covid-19: Manmohan to PM
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, suggesting five ways the government can tackle vaccine shortage amid the second wave of coronavirus in the country.
Stressing that ramping up vaccination was the key to battling the pandemic, the veteran Congress leader asked Modi to make public the order for doses of coronavirus vaccines placed by the government and also indicate how the vaccines will be distributed among states based on a transparent formula.
Singh also urged the government to “resist the temptation to look at the absolute numbers being vaccinated and focus instead on the percentage of the population vaccinated”.
Besides this, the former prime minister suggested that the Modi government offer some kind of flexibility to states in defining the categories of frontline workers that need to be vaccinated against the virus, even if they are below the age of 45 years (the current eligibility criterion).
“For instance, states may want to designate school teachers, bus, three-wheeler and taxi drivers, municipal and panchayat staff, and possibly lawyers who have to attend courts as frontline workers,” he wrote.
Highlighting the vaccine shortage in the country, Singh said that any vaccine that has been approved by credible authorities like the European Medical Agency should be allowed to be imported without insisting on domestic bridging trials.
“The relaxation could be for a limited period during which the bridging trials could be completed in India. All consumers of such vaccines could be duly cautioned that these vaccines are being allowed for use based on the approval granted by the relevant authority abroad,” he said.
To be sure, coronavirus vaccines cleared for use in the US, the UK, the European Union, and Japan will get fast-track approval in India, the Union government said on Tuesday last week, potentially boosting the country’s pandemic response through possible imports of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) products.
Acknowledging the huge potential in the private sector, Singh recommended that the government actively support domestic vaccine producers to expand their manufacturing facilities by providing them with funds and other concessions.
“I believe this is the time to invoke the compulsory licensing provisions in the law so that a number of companies are able to produce the vaccines under a licence,” he said.
The former prime minister also acknowledged the cloud of uncertainty among the people of the country who are “wondering when their lives would go back to normal”.
On Sunday morning, the Union ministry of health and family welfare announced that more than 122 million people in India were vaccinated against Covid-19 in a span of 92 days. It added that in the last 24 hours, over 2.6 million people were inoculated in the country, pushing the overall figure to 122,622,590.