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Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee writes to PM Modi; pitches for ‘liberal, pro-active' import of COVID-19 vaccines

Banerjee also suggested the PM that global players be encouraged to open up franchise operations in India to fight the pandemic.

May 12, 2021 / 06:09 PM IST
A vial of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine (Image: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

A vial of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine (Image: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on May 12 urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bring in ‘liberal, pro-active and discerning' import of vaccines in the country.

Banerjee also suggested the prime minister that global players be encouraged to open up franchise operations in India to fight the pandemic.

“You are kindly aware that as per experts, vaccination is now the real antidote to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic. It seems, however, that the production (and hence the supply and distribution) of the vaccines in the country is extremely inadequate and significant in the context of the massive needs of the people at large,” Banerjee wrote in the letter citing that about 10 crore people in West Bengal and 140 crore people in the country need vaccination while only a ‘microscopic percentage’ has been covered.

“Reports indicate that globally there are many manufacturers now. With the aid of scientists and experts, it is possible to identify the reputed and authentic manufacturers who have international reputation and credibility, and it is possible for us to speedily import vaccines from those ends across the different parts of the world I urge you to embark upon the endeavour without any further delay. Liberal, pro-active and discerning import of vaccination is the paramount need today,” the West Bengal CM wrote.

“Also, it may be considered if we could encourage world players to open up franchise operations in our country,” Banerjee wrote, adding that even national players could be inspired to go for franchisee mode for bulk production of vaccines.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Banerjee said West Bengal was ready to provide land and support for any manufacturing/franchise operations for vaccine manufacturing.

Earlier this week, Banerjee wrote to PM Modi, requesting him to waive all forms of taxes and customs duty on equipment and drugs being used to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Responding through a  series of tweets, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had explained how GST exemption to domestic supplies and commercial import of COVID drugs, vaccines and oxygen concentrators would make these items costlier for consumers.
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