Singh offered five suggestions to ramp up vaccination programme, urging the government to be transparent in publicising data on stocks and their distribution patterns. He said the Centre should grant greater flexibility to states to decide who to designate and vaccinate as frontline workers even if they are below 45 years, and support vaccine manufacturers with funds and concessions.
“The government should indicate how this expected supply will be distributed across states based on a transparent formula,” he said, adding that the Centre should retain 10% supplies for emergency use.
Singh said there was a need to place advance orders for vaccine supplies so that manufacturers could adhere to schedules of supply and states should have a clear signal of likely availability so that they could plan their rollout.
‘Invoke compulsory licensing clause’
Extending his suggestions to the PM in the spirit of “constructive cooperation”, Singh also warned the government against the temptation of looking at absolute numbers of people being vaccinated, and to focus instead on the percentage of population vaccinated.
The former PM said the Centre must proactively support vaccine producers to expand their manufacturing facilities quickly by providing them with 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. This, I recall, had happened earlier in the case of medicines to deal with the HIV/AIDS disease,” he said.
Singh said as far as Covid-19 was concerned, he had read that Israel has already invoked the compulsory licensing provision and there was an overwhelming case for India to do so as well quickly.
He said keeping in mind limited domestic supplies, vaccines cleared for use by credible authorities like the European Medical Agency or 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 bridging trials could be completed in India,” he said.