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Saturday, April 13 2024

Rahul writes to PM, questions Covid-19 vaccination exports

Rahul 4
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New Delhi:  Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that the Indian scientific community had worked overtime to develop a solution, but their efforts are undermined by the Centre’s poor implementation and “oversight”.

He also demanded that the government place an immediate moratorium on vaccine export and open up vaccination to everyone who needs it.

In his three-page letter, Gandhi, who is a Lok Sabha MP from Kerala’s Wayanad, 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.”

His remarks came amid the record surge in the cases of Covid this month. On Friday, India recorded 1,31,968 new Covid-19 cases and 780 deaths in the last 24 hours. Several states have put curbs and also announced night curfews in several districts. Even several state governments have complained of Covid-19 vaccination shortage.

The Congress leader said that 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 said.

The Congress leader further said that 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 one per cent of the population in three months.

He also pointed out that at our current vaccination rate, it would take years to inoculate 75 per cent of the population. “This will have catastrophic effects and will gravely decelerate India’s economy,” Rahul Gandhi said.

Taking a jibe at the government over its decision to export the Covid-19 vaccines to foreign countries, he said, “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 six crore doses of vaccines have been exported.”

He said that the state governments are repeatedly highlighting vaccine shortages only to receive intemperate statements by the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare (Dr Harsh Vardhan) 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?” he asked.

He also said that our vaccination programme has to move beyond an individual’s picture on the vaccine certificate, towards guaranteeing maximum vaccination.

The Congress leader demanded the Prime Minister to provide vaccine suppliers with necessary resources to increase manufacturing capacity, place an immediate “moratorium” on vaccine export, fast track approval of other vaccines as per norms and guidelines.

He further said that the government should open up vaccination to everyone who needs it, double central allocation for vaccine procurement from the existing Rs 35,000 crore, give state governments a greater say in vaccine procurement and distribution.

The Wayanad MP also demanded that the government must provide direct income support to vulnerable sections in the disastrous second wave.

Crediting his party for building the vaccine framework of India and making the country a vaccine hub, Gandhi said the vaccination programme has to move beyond “an individual’s picture on the vaccine certificate, towards guaranteeing maximum vaccination”.

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