Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked his successor Narendra Modi to ramp up the vaccination programme in the wake of the second wave of Covid 19. In a letter to Modi, Singh offered constructive cooperation and said the government should publicise 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 place enough orders in advance so that producers can adhere to an agreed schedule of supply,” he said.
He said the Centre must indicate how the expected supply of vaccines will be distributed across states based on a transparent formula. “The central government could retain 10 per cent 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 rollout,” the veteran leader said.
Seeks flexibility in defining categories
Echoing sentiments of Opposition-rules States, he said 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,” he said.
Support for vaccine producers
Reminding the Centre that the capacity to produce vaccines is mainly in the private sector, he wanted the Centre to 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 the 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,” the former Prime Minister said.
He also reiterated his party’s stated position that any vaccine that has been cleared for use by credible authorities such as the European Medical Agency or the USFDA should be imported without insisting on domestic bridging trials. “We must resist the temptation to look at the absolute numbers being vaccinated and focus instead on the percentage of the population vaccinated. Currently, India has vaccinated only a small fraction of its population. I am certain that with the right policy design, we can do much better and very quickly,” he hoped.