Sun, 09 May 2021

New Delhi [India], April 18 (ANI): Amid surging COVID-19 cases in the country, former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Sunday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to 'resist the temptation to look at the absolute number of vaccinations and focus on the percentage of the population vaccinated'.

In a letter to PM Modi, the senior Congress leader also listed out suggestions for consideration 'in a spirit of constructive cooperation', that included publicizing firm orders for doses placed on different vaccine producers and allowing states more flexibility to plan vaccination roll-outs.

"The key to our fight against Covid-19 must be ramping up the vaccination effort. We must resist the temptation to look at the absolute numbers being vaccinated, and focus instead on the percentage of the population vaccinated," Singh wrote, adding that India has vaccinated only a small fraction of its population so far.

"I am certain that with the right policy design, we can do much better and very quickly," he added.

In the letter, the former PM wrote, "The government should publicise what are the firm orders for doses placed on different vaccine producers and accepted for delivery over the next six months," adding that if a target number are to be vaccinated in this period, enough orders should be placed in advance so that producers can adhere to an agreed schedule of supply.

He further said that the government should indicate how this expected supply will be distributed across states based on a transparent formula.

"The central government could retain 10 per cent for distribution based on emergency needs, but other than that, states should have a clear signal of likely availability so that they can plan their rollout," the letter read.

"States should be given some flexibility to define categories of frontline workers who can be vaccinated even if they are below 45 years of age," he said, citing the example that states may want to designate school teachers, bus, three-wheeler and taxi drivers, municipal and panchayat staff, and possibly lawyers who have to attend Courts as frontline workers.

He further said that over the past few decades, India's capacity as the largest vaccine producer in the world, is largely in the private sector and at this moment of a public health emergency, the Government of India must proactively support vaccine producers to expand their manufacturing facilities quickly by providing funds and other concessions.

"I believe this is the time to invoke the compulsory licensing provisions in the law, so that a number of companies are able to produce the vaccines under a licence... 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," he wrote.

India on Sunday reported its highest-ever single-day spike of coronavirus cases with over 2.61 lakh new cases and more than 1,500 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the Union Health Ministry on Sunday.

The ministry also informed that the country took only 92 days to administer 12 crore COVID-19 vaccinations, the fastest country to do so across the world. As per a provisional report put together till 7 am on Sunday, India has administered 12,26,22,590 vaccine doses. (ANI)

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