In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 8, 2021, Shri Rahul Gandhi called for vaccinations to be opened up to “everyone who needs it” and an immediate halt on vaccine exports, predicting “catastrophic effects” on the economy if inoculations continued at the current pace. The Congress leader also urged the government to fast-track other vaccines.
In his detailed letter, he said “I write to you with great concern since we are once again at the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic. Over the last year, our country suffered irreparable losses, made tremendous sacrifices, and yet, we are under a renewed attack by this virus.
This is unfortunate considering our scientific community and vaccine suppliers worked overtime to develop a solution but their efforts are undermined by the Centre’s poor implementation and “oversight”.
Highlights of our country’s current concerns
India had the first-mover advantage in vaccination and yet we are moving at snail’s pace. Historically, India has achieved abundant experience in designing and executing some of the world’s biggest vaccination programmes. Yet in the present case, we have managed to fully vaccinate less than 1% of the population in 3 months. Countries with sizeable populations have managed to vaccinate relatively many more people.
At our current vaccination rate, it would take years to inoculate 75% of the population. This will have catastrophic effects and will gravely decelerate India’s economy.
There is no clear reason as to why the government permitted large-scale exports of vaccines. While our nation is facing vaccine starvation, more than 6 crore doses of vaccines have been exported. The state governments are repeatedly highlighting vaccine shortages only to receive intemperate statements by the Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare targeting Opposition-ruled states, undercutting cooperative federalism which you too have stressed as essential. Was the export of vaccines also an “oversight”, like many other decisions of this government, or an effort to garner publicity at the cost of our own citizens?
Centralization and individualized propaganda are counter-productive. Even though Public Health is a state subject, our states have been bypassed right from vaccine procurement to registration. Additionally, a large section of the poor have been excluded due to the initial mandatory online registration. The Congress Party takes immense pride in building the framework over last 70 years to make India the world’s vaccine hub and, hence, we firmly support a well-planned, universalized & speedy vaccination drive. Our vaccination programme has to move beyond an individual’s picture on the vaccine certificate, towards guaranteeing maximum vaccination.
Therefore, I humbly request you to:
I reiterate our unstinted support to the Covid-19 vaccination programme and hope these suggestions will be considered expediently.