Amid a lack of shortage of vaccines in India, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday, 18 May, said that more domestic companies should be given the licence to manufacture vaccines. A day later, after drawing much criticism, he issued a clarification that the government had "already" been doing so and that he was "unaware" of it.
“If vaccine demand is more than supply, it creates a problem. Instead of one, let 10 more companies be given licence for vaccine manufacturing. Let them supply within the country. Later, if there is a surplus, they may export,” Gadkari had said, in a virtual address to vice-chancellors of universities.
On Wednesday, he clarified that he was unaware that Minister for Chemical & Fertilizers Mansukh Mandaviya had already briefed regarding the government’s efforts to ramp up vaccine production before he had made the statement.
“After the conference, he also informed me that, GoI is already facilitating vaccine manufacturing by 12 different plants/companies and rapid ramp up of production is expected in near future as a result of these efforts. I was unaware that his ministry has started these efforts before I had given suggestion yesterday,” he said.
“I am glad and congratulate he and his team for this timely intervention in the right direction,” he said.
‘But is His Boss Listening?’
He said the vaccine formulae should be shared with labs across the country to scale up production.
“I am sure there are two-three labs in each state that have the capability and infrastructure. Share the formula and coordinate with them to increase production...This can be done in 15-20 days: This can be done to resolve the vaccine shortage.”Union Minister Nitin Gadkari
Gadkari's suggestion drew sharp criticism from senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, who referred to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April on the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
Gadkari had said that “better arrangements” were needed for cremations and expressed his dismay over deaths amid lack of oxygen in hospitals across the country.
Gadkari had also stated that he would ask PM Narendra Modi to allow more pharma companies to manufacture life-saving drugs for COVID.
“I have told the World Health Organization. I will tell Prime Minister Narendra Modi also to let pharma companies give 10 per cent royalty (to the patent holder) and manufacture these life-saving drugs, even at the global level,” he said.