Rahul Gandhi urges PM to halt vaccine export, grant income support to vulnerable sections of society

‘Was the export of vaccines also an oversight, like many other decisions of this government,’ Congress leader and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi wrote in a letter to PM Narendra Modi

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi
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NH Web Desk

Congress leader and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi on Friday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi questioning the government’s decision to export Covid-19 vaccines.

"Was the export of vaccines also an oversight, like many other decisions of this government, or an effort to garner publicity at the cost of our own citizens?" Rahul Gandhi said in his letter to the Prime Minister.

Noting that the country was facing "vaccine starvation", the former Congress president said more than 6 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been exported.

He also pointed out that the vaccination drive was moving at a very slow pace. “At our current vaccination rate, it would take years to inoculate 75% of the population. This will have catastrophic effects and will gravely decelerate India's economy,” he wrote.

Rahul Gandhi presented seven demands before the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his letter. These included financial support to vaccine manufacturers to ramp up production, stopping the export of Covid-19 vaccines, fast-track approval for other vaccine candidates, universal vaccination, doubling of central allocation for vaccine procurement, larger role for states in procuring and distributing vaccines, and income support for vulnerable sections of the society affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Here is the full text of his letter:

Dear Prime Minister,

I write to you with great concern since we are once again at the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic. Over the last year, our country suffered irreparable losses, made tremendous sacrifices, and yet, we are under a renewed attack by this virus.

This is unfortunate considering our scientific community and vaccine suppliers worked overtime to develop a solution but their efforts are undermined by the Centre's poor implementation and "oversight".

Highlights of our country's current concerns:

1. India had the first mover advantage in vaccination and yet we are moving at snail's pace. Historically, India has achieved abundant experience in designing and executing some of the world's biggest vaccination programs. Yet in the present case, we have managed to fully vaccinate less than 1% of the population in 3 months. Countries with sizeable populations have managed to vaccinate relatively many more people.

2. At our current vaccination rate, it would take years to inoculate 75% of the population. This will have catastrophic effects and will gravely decelerate India's economy.

3. There is no clear reason as to why the government permitted large-scale exports of vaccines. While our nation is facing vaccine starvation, more than 6 crore doses of vaccines have been exported. The state governments are repeatedly highlighting vaccine shortages only to receive intemperate statements by the Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare targeting Opposition-ruled states, undercutting cooperative federalism which you too have stressed as essential.

Was the export of vaccines also an "oversight", like many other decisions of this government, or an effort to garner publicity at the cost of our own citizens?


4. Centralization and individualized propaganda are counter-productive. Even though Public Health is a state subject, our states have been bypassed right from vaccine procurement to registration. Additionally, a large section of the poor have been excluded due to the initial mandatory online registration.

The Congress Party takes immense pride in building the framework over last 70 years to make India world's vaccine hub and, hence, we firmly support a well-planned, universalized & speedy vaccination drive.

Our vaccination program has to move beyond an individual's picture on the vaccine certificate, towards guaranteeing maximum vaccination.

Therefore, I humbly request you to:

1. Provide vaccine suppliers with necessary resources to increase manufacturing capacity.

2. Place an immediate moratorium on vaccine export.

3. Fast track approval of other vaccines as per norms and guidelines. 4. Open up vaccination to everyone who needs it.

5. Double central allocation for vaccine procurement from the existing Rs 35,000 crore.

6. Give State governments a greater say in vaccine procurement and distribution.

7. Provide direct income support to the vulnerable sections in the disastrous second wave.

I reiterate our unstinted support to the Covid-19 vaccination program and hope these suggestions will be considered expediently.

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