‘Must Ramp UP Vaccine Bid’: Manmohan Singh Writes to Modi on COVID

Singh emphasised on the expansion of COVID vaccination programme, as it is a big part of pandemic management.

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Amid concerns over the rising COVID cases in India, former prime minister and senior Congress leader Manmohan Singh wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and gave him five suggestions to tackle the COVID-19 crisis.

In a letter, Singh emphasised on the expansion of the COVID vaccination programme, as it is a big part of pandemic management. "The key to our fight against COVID-19 must be ramping up the vaccination effort. Currently, India has vaccinated only a small fraction of its population," Singh wrote in a letter.

Here are the five suggestions Manmohan Singh gave PM Modi and his government in the letter.

  • The government should publicise orders that have been placed and accepted for deilvery by different vaccine producers, over the next six months. If we want to vaccinate a target number in this period, we should place enough orders in advance so that producers can adhere to an agreed schedule of supply.
  • 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 roll out.
  • States should be given some flexibility to define categories of frontline workers who can be vaccinated even if they are below 45 years of age. For example, 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. They can then be vaccinated even if they are below 45.
  • The Government of India must proactively support vaccine producers to expand their manufacturing facilities quickly by providing funds and other concessions. In addition, 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 vaccines under a licence. This, I recall, had happened earlier in the case of medicines to deal with the HIV/AIDS disease. As far as COVID-19 is concerned, I have read that Israel has already invoked the compulsory licensing provision and there is an overwhelming case for India to do so as well quickly.
  • Since domestic supplies are limited, any vaccine that has been cleared for use by credible authorities such as the European Medical Agency or the USFDA, should be allowed to be imported without insisting on domestic 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. 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.

On Sunday, 18 April, India reported a record single-day rise of 2,61,500 coronavirus cases and 1,501 new deaths.

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