“One must not look at absolute numbers, but the percentage of the population vaccinated.”
A day after the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 18, 2021, highlighting five suggestions for combating the second and more severe Covid-19 wave in India.
In a two-page letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the veteran Congress leader said, “One must not look at absolute numbers, but the percentage of the population vaccinated.”
‘Ramp up vaccination programme’
“The key to our fight against Covid-19 must be ramping up the vaccination effort. We must resist the temptation to look at the absolute numbers being vaccinated and focus instead on the percentage of the population vaccinated,” said Manmohan Singh in the letter.
Noting that India has vaccinated only a small fraction of its population, Dr. Manmohan Singh said he is certain that “We can do much better and very quickly with the right policy design.” “There are many things we must do to fight the epidemic, but a big part of this effort must be ramping up the vaccination programme,” he said.
Dr. Manmohan Singh further said that the government should indicate how the expected vaccine supply will be distributed across states on a transparent formula.
“The Centre 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,” he wrote.
Flexibility on vaccination age criteria
In his third proposal, the former PM said that 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.
Invoking compulsory licensing provision
The Centre 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 provision in the law so that a number of companies are able to produce the vaccines under a licence,” wrote Dr. Singh.
The former PM also gave an example of Israel saying it has already invoked the compulsory licensing provision, and there is an overwhelming case for India to do so as well quickly.
No ‘bridging trials’
While the Centre has already allowed emergency use of vaccines approved in other countries, Dr. Singh has suggested that 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.
“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 board,” he wrote.
“I hope the government will accept these suggestions immediately and act on them promptly,” Dr. Singh concluded.