New Delhi, April 18, 2021: With the Covid-19 surge showing no signs of abating, former prime minister and senior Congress leader Manmohan Singh wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, emphasising that the vaccination drive must be ramped up across the country to tackle the crisis.
“The government should publicise what are the firm orders for doses placed on different vaccine producers and accepted for delivery over the next six months. If we want to vaccinate a target number in this period, we should have enough orders in advance…” Singh wrote in his letter.
The second suggestion that Singh gave in his letter was that the government should indicate how this expected supply will be distributed across states based on a transparent formula. The central government could retain 10 percent for distribution based on emergency needs, but other than that, states should have a clear signal of likely availability so that they can plan their rollout.
He further wrote that states should be given some flexibility to define the category of frontline workers to be vaccinated even if they are below 45. This includes bus and taxi drivers, panchayat workers, municipality staff and also lawyers, he added. “They can be vaccinated even if they are below 45,” he wrote.
The former Prime Minister pointed out that in this time of a public health emergency, the Centre must proactively support vaccine producers to expand their manufacturing facilities quickly by providing 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 vaccine under a licence. This, I recall, had happened earlier in the case of medicines to deal with the HIV/AIDS disease,” he wrote.
Singh also said that any vaccine which has been cleared for use by credible authorities, such as the European Medical Agency or the FDA in the US, should be allowed to be imported without any bridging trials.
“We are facing an unprecedented emergency and, I understand, experts are of the view that this relaxation is justified in an emergency. The relaxation could be for a limited period during which the bridging trials could be completed in India,” he wrote.
He further stated, “We must resist the temptation to look at the absolute numbers being vaccinated, and focus instead on the percentage of population vaccinated. Currently, India has vaccinated only a small percentage of its population. I am certain that with the right policy design, we can do much better and very quickly.”
On Sunday, India reported a record single-day rise of 2,61,500 coronavirus cases and recorded 1,501 new fatalities.