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Ghulam Nabi Azad writes to PM, suggests measures to fight against COVID-19

Azad pointed out that there were 21 major vaccine manufacturing pharmaceutical companies in India with state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities compliant to bio-safety norms.

Former J&K chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. (File)

Former Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad Saturday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan asking them to make sure that Bharat Biotech, the manufacturer of Covaxin, share the technology with all the WHO prequalified pharmaceutical companies in India so that vaccine production can be augmented.

Azad pointed out that there were 21 major vaccine manufacturing pharmaceutical companies in India with state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities compliant to bio-safety norms. He said seven of them including the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech reportedly are WHO pre-qualified manufacturers and suppliers.

“While it is understood that the Covishield vaccine is being produced by SII under patent licensing arrangement with AstraZeneca and Dr Reddy’s Lab has lately been licensed to manufacture the Sputnik vaccine, we can surely augment the production of domestically developed Covaxin. I believe the Department of Biotechnology and ICMR have supported the development of the vaccine now being produced by Bharat Biotech.”

“It may be worthwhile to have them share the technology with, if not all, the remaining WHO pre-qualified pharmaceutical companies. This will immediately increase the production of Covaxin manifold thereby instantly improving vaccination coverage,” he wrote.

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The Government has already announced financial support to four firms including Bharat Biotech International and state-owned PSUs Haffkine Biopharmaceutical Corporation Ltd, Indian Immunologicals Ltd and Bharat Immunologicals and Biologicals Ltd to ramp up production of Covaxin.

Azad also asked the Government to consider re-hiring recently retired nursing and pharmaceutical staff for six months to one year on payment of the last drawn pay minus pension for the vaccination drive.

“They could be given some additional honorarium to undertake this in a mission mode in the aspirational districts or other targeted areas. This may help us in surging our skilled human resource in a short period of time to significantly increase the number of vaccination sites and population-based coverage,” he said.

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He also asked the Government to ramp up oxygen production. “Many PSA oxygen plants have been installed in the country, many are in the pipeline and several more have now been sanctioned. These must be installed utilizing the various agencies at the disposal of the government expeditiously and certainly within the specified period. Nations across the world and development agencies have stepped forward in this time of need with oxygen and oxygen equipment. These must be distributed proportionately and with a sense of urgency to reach the end use points,” he said.

Azad also asked the Government to rope in micro and small scale enterprises, entrepreneurs, NGOs and CSOs to manufacture pre-fabricated beds.

“Pre-fabricated beds can be manufactured quickly by our medium scale enterprises to enable the setting up of field hospitals and vaccination sites. Utilising our available technologies and capacities, we should be able to significantly upgrade our field infrastructure with a fortnight to a month,” he added.

First published on: 15-05-2021 at 10:12:20 pm
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