The key challenge - GulfToday

The key challenge

Manmohan Singh

Manmohan Singh

The former Prime Minster of India, Manmohan Singh, has made sterling suggestions to the government on managing COVID-19.

First, he has suggested that the government should be transparent about the pending and new orders for vaccines. The government had proclaimed a target of inoculating 300 million people, i.e. 21 per cent of the population, by end July 2021. However, it has inoculated only 1.2 percent of its population in the first three months. How will we vaccinate the balance 19 per cent in the 3.5 months? India has already run out of vaccines and is seeking them from the world. It is not easy to source vaccines from abroad. Everyone’s order book is full.

Mr. Singh has advocated flexibility for state governments in deciding priority groups for vaccination and in sourcing the vaccines. State governments and even private companies should be allowed to source them from India or even abroad. The ex-PM’s suggestion that vaccines cleared by credible health agencies abroad, should be given easy clearance makes eminent sense. India needs vaccines desperately, in the ensuing second surge. Bureaucratic delays should be curtailed.

The ex-PM has wisely counselled that vaccine capacities need to be boosted urgently in India, by providing funds and incentives to producers, and through contracts with other manufacturers, involving technology transfer agreements.

The government has liberalised the vaccine policy. The above 18 age range can inoculate from 1 May. State governments may have better access to the vaccines. Some loans are being extended to the Serum Institute, Pune. The key challenge will be to boost production of the vaccines and make the vaccinations a mass movement in the country. India has about 36.3 per cent, translating to 500 million people in the age range of 19 to 44 years. Thus, India needs a billion doses for this age group. Sourcing vaccines and having robust distribution centres, is going to be crucial.

Rajendra Aneja
Mumbai, India

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