Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on COVID-19 crisis, putting forward five suggestions to the government including ramping up the vaccination program and giving approval to the vaccines cleared by European agencies or USFDA.

In a letter to the prime minister, the veteran Congress leader said one must not look at absolute numbers but the total percentage of population vaccinated.

"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," he said in his letter.

In his suggestions, the former Prime Minister said that 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 and the government should indicate how this expected supply will be distributed across states based on a transparent formula.

"The central government could retain 10 percent 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 roll out," he said.

On vaccination, he said that 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.

"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. 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," Singh said.

He also said that 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. Since domestic supplies are limited, any vaccine that has been cleared for use by credible authorities such as the European Medical Agency or the USFDA, 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 this relaxation is justified in an emergency. The relaxation could be for a limited period during which the bridging trials could be completed 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.

Singh said he is forwarding his suggestions for consideration in a spirit of constructive cooperation in which he has always believed and acted upon.

India has seen a massive surge of COVID-19 cases with over two lakh cases being reported every day in the past four days.



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