Congress leader and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Thursday accused the central government of needlessly delaying approval to Coronavirus vaccines in the country for many months except in the case of Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V.
“Our suspicion that the government had not approved any vaccine other than Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V, has been proved correct,” Chidambaram said.
“Why did government go through the charade of negotiating quantities with Pfizer and Moderna without first giving Emergency Use Approval (EUA) to their vaccines?
“Why has it taken 8-9 months for the government to decide to give approval when the US and other countries had granted approval?
“Remember, Dr Manmohan Singh had made this specific suggestion in his letter which got a rude reply from the Union Health Minister!” he added. In mid-April, Singh’s letter to the Centre suggested ramping up the vaccination drive as key to battling the pandemic, asking the government to “resist the temptation to look at the absolute numbers being vaccinated, and focus instead on the percentage of the population vaccinated”.
The former Prime Minister had also added that India currently has vaccinated only a small fraction of its population, adding that with the right policy design, “We can do much better and very quickly.”
Experts from the National Institute of Malaria Research and the Indian Council of Medical Research, on Wednesday, slammed the government for poor planning of the home-grown vaccine production and deployment, as a result of which “India doesn’t have enough vaccines to go around with”, they said.
While there are plans to significantly ramp up production of the Covaxin and Covishield vaccines, the target to vaccinate around one billion people may still not be reached in 2021, the experts said in a commentary published in the online journal BMJ Global Health.
Only around 3 per cent of the population has been inoculated till now.
The experts urged the government to expedite the approval of foreign vaccines already deployed elsewhere around the globe.
The Centre on Wednesday took steps to accelerate domestic vaccine production.
Mumbai-based Haffkine Biopharma will produce 22.8 crore doses per annum of Covaxin under technology transfer arrangement with Bharat Biotech.
With the aim of vaccinating the entire eligible population at the earliest, domestic vaccine production is being steadily ramped up in the country with the help from the Centre.
Three public enterprises were being supported by the Department of Biotechnology under Atmanirbhar Bharat 3.0 Mission ‘Covid Suraksha’.
Apart from Haffkine Biopharmaceutical Corporation Ltd, Mumbai, these enterprises are the Indian Immunologicals Ltd, Hyderabad and Bharat Immunologicals & Biologicals Ltd, Bulandshahr, in Uttar Pradesh.