Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
As India reels under severe COVID-19 second wave, former prime minister and senior Congress leader Manmohan Singh wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 18, highlighting that the COVID-19 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.
He added 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. “They can be vaccinated even if they are below 45,” the former Prime Minister wrote.
“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 further added.
Citing limited domestic supplies as a reason, Singh further stated 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 said.
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."
India on April 18 saw the biggest single-day spike of over 2.61 lakh fresh COVID-19 cases, pushing the country's tally to 1.47 crore, according to the Union health ministry. The death toll in India has climbed to 1,77,150 as 1,501 fatalities were registered in the past 24 hours.
India has been witnessing more than 200,000 daily infections since April 15.