'Was this an oversight?' Rahul questions Covid-19 jab export, says Congress made India vaccine hub
Though India has the first mover advantage in vaccination, the pace is not enough and at this rate it would take years to vaccinate 75 per cent of the population, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi wrote in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Presenting his seven-point demands, the Congress leader said the government must place an immediate moratorium on vaccine export and open vaccination to everyone who needs it. The other demands of the Congress leader include providing vaccine suppliers with necessary resources to increase manufacturing capacity, fast-tracking the approval process of other vaccines as per norms and guidelines, increasing the allocation of ₹35,000 crore for vaccine procurement, as announced in Union Budget 2021, to double, allowing states a greater say in vaccine procurement and distribution, providing direct income support to the vulnerable sections.
"Historically, India has achieved abundant experience in designing and executing some of the world's biggest vaccination programmes. Yet in the present case, we have managed to fully vaccinate less than 1% of the population in 3 months," Gandhi wrote in his letter.
Was the export of vaccines also an "oversight", the Congress leader asked in his letter, referring to the recent order issued by the finance minister on interest rate cut on small savings. The order was withdrawn a day after and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said it was an oversight.
Questioning why state governments have not been given the authority to procure vaccines according to their need, the Congress leader wrote, "Even though public health is a state subject, our states have been bypassed right from vaccine procurement to registration."
Crediting his party for building the vaccine framework of India and making the country a vaccine hub, Rahul said the vaccination programme has to move beyond "an individual's picture on the vaccine certificate, towards guaranteeing maximum vaccination".
The letter comes at a time when several states are complaining of vaccine shortage and the inoculation drive on Friday stopped at many vaccination centres in Mumbai. However, the Centre dismissed these claims as "fear-mongering" and said the stocks are being replenished on a regular basis and there is no vaccine crunch in any state.
According to Centre's data, India has so far exported 6.45 crore Covid-19 vaccine doses to as many as 84 countries. Out of these doses, 1.05 crores have been given as grants to 44 countries, while 3.58 crore doses to 25 countries have been given under commercial contracts and 1.82 crore to 39 countries through World Health Organization (WHO)'s COVAX facility.