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Friday, June 18, 2021

Nitin Gadkari: More firms should get licences for vaccines

Only three vaccines have so far been approved to be sold in India so far --- Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi |
Updated: May 19, 2021 9:58:37 am
Nitin Gadkari (File photo)

With the Government facing criticism over a crippling shortage of Covid vaccines, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said Tuesday that more domestic companies should be given the licence to manufacture these vaccines and life-saving drugs to tackle the pandemic.

He also sought “better arrangements” for cremations and expressed dismay over the loss of lives due to lack of oxygen in hospitals.

“If the demand for the vaccine is more than supply then it creates a problem. So, instead of one company, let 10 more companies be given the license to manufacture the vaccine. First let them supply in the country and later if there is surplus, they may export,” Gadkari said in a virtual address to vice chancellors of universities.

“There are two-three laboratories in every state. Let them make it, not as a service, but with 10 per cent royalty… It can be done in 15-20 days,” he said.

Last Thursday, the Centre, while unveiling its vaccine roadmap, had said that 7.30 crore doses would be available in May for the vaccination drive. Out of these, 1.27 crore doses that are being directly procured by states are in the pipeline, and 80 lakh doses are being procured by private hospitals.

The Road Transport and Highways Minister also said that he would propose to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs that better arrangements be made for the cremation of bodies. He said cremations can be cost-effective if fuels, such as diesel, ethanol and biogas, and electricity are used instead of sandalwood.

His remarks come amid widespread criticism after bodies of suspected Covid victims were found floating in rivers in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh with several complaints about the high costs involved in cremations during the pandemic.

“When one person is cremated using wood, it costs Rs 3,000. If diesel is used, it costs Rs 1,600, in LPG the cost comes to Rs 1,200, in electric it is Rs 750-800 and by burning biomass palettes, it comes to Rs 1,000,” he said.

“Universities can conduct research on this, too…self-sufficient (atmanirbhar), import substitute, cost effective… this should be done with a swadeshi mindset,” he said.

However, he said he would not get into the issue of the kind of cremation allowed according to Hindu rites as it is a controversial matter.

Gadkari also said that he, along with Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Mansukh Mandaviya, would propose to the Prime Minister to allow more pharma companies to manufacture life-saving drugs for Covid.

“I have told the World Health Organisation. I will tell Prime Minister Narendra Modi also, to let pharma companies give 10 per cent royalty (to the patent holder) and manufacture these life-saving drugs, even at the world level,” he said.

“The raw material comes from abroad, the patent is from abroad, and the country needs medicines, we don’t have more medicines,” he said.

Gadkari’s remarks follow similar comments by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who had written to the Prime Minister, saying the Centre should share the vaccine formula of the two manufacturers with other capable pharmaceutical companies to scale up production.

Only three vaccines have so far been approved to be sold in India so far — Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V.

Suggesting ways to tackle a possible third and fourth waves, if they come, Gadkari said hospitals need to be made self-sufficient in terms of oxygen. “People died because of a lack of oxygen. This was not good,” he said.

Early this month, the Government had selected the National Highways Authority of India, which comes under Gadkari’s ministry, as the nodal agency for civil works of oxygen plants given its expertise and footprint across the country.

The Union Minister also called upon all voluntary organisations and religious organisations to stock oxygen concentrators, cylinders, etc., so that if need be, volunteers can promptly reach people with help.

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