Scaling up immunization crucial to fight pandemic: Manmohan Singh to Modi

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday about the Covid-19 crisis, stressing that scaling up vaccinations was key to fighting the pandemic, and proposed measures to boost supply, including by invoking compulsory licensing provisions as in the case of HIV/AIDS drugs.

In a letter to the prime minister, the veteran congress leader said one should not look at absolute numbers but at the total percentage of the population who have been vaccinated.

“The key to our fight against Covid-19 must be to step up the vaccination effort. We must resist the temptation to look at the absolute numbers vaccinated and instead focus on the percentage of the population vaccinated,” he said. he stated in his letter.

Noting that India currently vaccinated only a small fraction of its population, Singh said he was certain that with the right policy design, “we can do much better and very quickly.”

“There are many things we need to do to fight the epidemic, but a big part of this effort must be to intensify the vaccination program,” he said while making several suggestions.

The former prime minister suggested that states have some flexibility to define categories of frontline workers who can be vaccinated even if they are under 45.

Currently, people over the age of 45 are eligible for vaccination.

He said some states might want to designate teachers, bus, three-wheeler and taxi drivers, municipal and panchayat staff, and possibly lawyers who have to attend courts as frontline workers, and they can then be vaccinated even if they are under 45 years of age. .

The suggestions come a day after the Congressional working committee met and discussed efforts needed to tackle the Covid pandemic.

Singh said the Center should make public vaccine dose orders placed and accepted for delivery over the next six months. He said the government should indicate how vaccine supplies should be distributed to states.

“If we want to vaccinate a target number during this period, we need to place enough orders in advance so that producers can meet an agreed supply schedule,” he noted.

The former prime minister said the government should outline how this expected vaccine supply will be distributed between states based on a transparent formula.

He suggested that the central government could withhold 10% for distribution based on emergency needs, and that states should have a clear signal of likely availability so they can plan their deployment.

Noting that India has become the largest vaccine producer in the world, he said, in this time of public health emergency, the government must proactively support vaccine producers to rapidly expand their vaccine facilities. manufacturing by providing funds and other grants.

“I think now is the time to invoke the provisions of the Compulsory Licensing Act so that a number of companies can produce the vaccines under license. This, I recall, had happened earlier in the case of HIV drugs/AIDS disease,” he said.

Citing the example of Israel, which has already invoked the compulsory licensing provision, he said there were good reasons for India to do so so quickly.

With domestic supplies limited, Singh said 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 transition trials.

“We are facing an unprecedented emergency and, I understand, experts are of the opinion that this easing is justified in an emergency.

The easing could be of limited duration during which transition trials could be completed in India,” he said.

A warning to all consumers of these vaccines must be given that these vaccines are allowed to be used based on the approval granted by the competent authority abroad, he said.

Singh said he is forwarding his suggestions for consideration in the spirit of constructive cooperation in which he has always believed and acted.

“I hope the government will accept these suggestions immediately and act on them quickly,” he said.

Singh recalled how over the year the world and India have grappled with the Covid-19 pandemic, with many parents not having seen their children for over a year.

Many have lost their source of income and several million people have been pushed back into poverty, he said, noting that with the second wave currently observed, “people are starting to wonder when their lives will return to normal. “.

India has seen a massive rise in Covid-19 cases with over two lakh cases reported every day for the past four days.

Senior Congress official P Chidambaram expressed hope that the government will adhere to the suggestions.

“If the government is open to good suggestions, it will be known through the follow-up to the letter. Furthermore, if the government is serious about containing the spread of the pandemic, it will also be known through its response,” a- he declared.

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