Updated: April 10, 2021 8:33:48 am
As the government grapples to contain the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to place an immediate moratorium on the export of vaccines, fast track approval of other vaccines and open up vaccination to everyone who needs it.
Criticising the PM, Gandhi asked whether the export of vaccines was an effort to garner “publicity” at the cost of India’s citizens.
Referring to the PM’s appeal to the chief ministers to organise a vaccine festival from April 11 to 14, he tweeted that shortage of vaccines amid the rise in Covid-19 cases is a very serious issue and not an “utsav”.
Gandhi, in his letter, said it was a matter of great concern that India is once again at the epicentre of the 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”,” he wrote.
“India had the first-mover advantage in vaccination and yet we are moving at a snail’s pace. Historically, India has achieved abundant experience in designing and executing some of the world’s biggest vaccination programs. Yet in the present case, we have managed to fully vaccinate less than 1% of the population in 3 months. Countries with sizable populations have managed to vaccinate relatively many more people,” the letter said.
At the current rate of inoculation, it would take years to inoculate 75% of the population, Rahul claimed. “This will have catastrophic effects and will gravely decelerate India’s economy.”
He claimed that there is no clear reason why the government has 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 and 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 citizens?”
Rahul asked the government to double the central allocation for vaccine procurement from the existing Rs 35,000 crore and give state governments a greater say in vaccine procurement and distribution. He also asked the PM to provide direct income support to the “vulnerable sections” to face the second wave.
Pointing out that centralization and individualized propaganda are counter-productive, he said “even though Public Health is a state subject, our states have been bypassed right from vaccine procurement to registration. Moreover, a large section of the poor have been excluded due to the initial mandatory online registration, he said.
“Our vaccination programme has to move beyond an individual’s picture on the vaccine certificate, towards guaranteeing maximum vaccination,” Gandhi said and demanded that vaccine suppliers be provided with necessary resources to increase manufacturing capacity, an immediate moratorium be put on the export of vaccines, fast-tracking of approval of other vaccines as per norms and guidelines and opening up of vaccination to everyone who needs it.
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