Former PM Manmohan Singh writes to Modi, suggests five ways to fight COVID-19
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote a letter to PM Narendra Modi on Sunday and suggested five ways to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
The following are the five points he suggested:
First, the government should publicise the orders for the number of doses regarding different vaccine producers over the next six months.
“If we want to vaccinate a target number in this period, we should place enough orders in advance so that producers can adhere to an agreed schedule of supply,” Singh stated in the letter.
Second, the government should show how this expected supply will be distributed across states based on a transparent formula. The central government could keep 10 per cent for distribution based on emergency needs, but other than that, they can plan their rollout.
Third, they should give states some flexibility to define categories of frontline workers who can be vaccinated even if they are below 45 years of age.
For example, states may want to designate school teachers, commercial drivers, municipal and panchayat staff and possibly lawyers who have to attend Courts as frontline workers.
“They can then be vaccinated even if they are below 45.”
Fourth, India has emerged as the largest vaccine producer in the world thanks to policies adopted by the government and robust intellectual property protection.
The capacity is largely in the private sector. The Government of India must proactively support vaccine producers to expand their manufacturing facilities quickly by providing funds and other concessions.
“Besides, I believe this is the time to invoke the compulsory licensing provisions in the law so that several companies can produce the vaccines under a licence. This, as I recall, had happened earlier in the case of medicines to deal with the HIV/AIDS disease As far as Covid-19 is concerned, I have read that Israel has already invoked the compulsory licensing provision, and there is an overwhelming case for India to do so as well quickly,” Singh stated.
Fifth, since domestic supplies are limited, any vaccine that credible authorities have cleared for use, such as the European Medical Agency or the USFDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), should be allowed to be imported without insisting on domestic bridging trials.
“We are facing an unprecedented emergency, and I understand experts are of the view that it justifies this relaxation in an emergency. The relaxation could be for a limited period during which they could complete the bridging trials 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 abroad,” he said.
“Currently, India has vaccinated only a small fraction of its population. I am certain that with the right policy design, we can do much better and very quickly. We must resist the temptation to look at the absolute numbers being vaccinated, and focus instead on the percentage of the population vaccinated. I hope the government will accept these suggestions immediately and act on them promptly,” he added.
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