Congress calls for ‘vaccine for all’, picks holes in govt’s jab policy

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said if a free vaccine for all can be announced in elections, then why can't vaccines be given to all.

New Delhi: Calling for a “vaccine for all” policy, the Congress on Wednesday picked holes in the government’s vaccination and COVID strategy and alleged that a grave catastrophe awaited the country due to its “stubborn” stance.

Stressing on COVID-19 vaccine for all in the country, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said every Indian “deserves the chance to a safe life”.

The Health Ministry on Tuesday said the vaccine needs to be given to those who need it and not those who want it. The COVID-19 vaccine is currently available to all Indians above the age of 45 years.

“It’s ridiculous to debate needs and wants. Every Indian deserves the chance to a safe life,” Gandhi said on Twitter, using the hashtag “#CovidVaccine”.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said if a free vaccine for all can be announced in elections, then why can’t vaccines be given to all.

“If a free vaccine for all can be announced in the manifesto in elections, then this is the right time that the government should arrange vaccines for everyone on priority. The most beneficial step for the people of our country is that everyone should get the vaccine,” she said in a tweet in Hindi.

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and chief ministers have called for universal vaccination, yet the Central government is not agreeing and due to its “stubborn” stance infections are rising in the country.

“IMA has called for universal vaccination. Several CMs have demanded universal vaccination. Yet the central government says there is no need for universal vaccination. The need of the hour is walk-in vaccination to all age groups without any pre-registration.

“Because of its unscientific and stubborn stance, the government has allowed the number of infections to gallop every day. A grave catastrophe awaits the country,” he tweeted.

“There is no government of any democratic country in the world that has been so callous as the Modi government. From demonetisation to the botched vaccination programme, Indians are paying a huge price for the wrong policies of the BJP government,” he also said.

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera accused the government of not taking adequate steps to contain the spread of the virus and called for engagement with all stakeholders, including convening an all-party meeting, to increase vaccination.

He raised concern over the high wastage of vaccines in some states and asked the government why it is not allowing more vaccine trials in the country for enabling a diversified pool of vaccines that can help prevent this second wave of COVID-19 from turning into a tsunami.

He said in the first wave of COVID-19, India recorded 97,894 cases during its peak on September 17, 2020, but on Wednesday we surpassed that and reported a staggering 1,15,736 new cases.

The Congress leader said India has surpassed both the USA and Brazil to bag the number one position in terms of the highest number of daily new cases as one in every seven new cases across the world are from India. 

Calling for including more categories in the list of vaccine beneficiaries, he said people with respiratory infections, which get accentuated due to air pollution, need to be given early vaccination.

“Vaccine is the right of every Indian. Like polio vaccination was for everyone and the government ran a universal vaccination drive, this also has to be universal and for everyone. Today when there is shortage of health facilities and infrastructure and the virus is spreading fast, this vaccine has to be for one and for all,” he told reporters.

Khera said the government needs to answer many critical questions. “If having cases in excess of what we saw during the peak of first wave in September 2020 is not a testimony to it, we wonder what else it would take for the government to accept this fact and re-strategise accordingly,” he said. 

“The spike in COVID-19 cases is alarming, and the width (duration of the spike) of the cases needs to be curtailed now before this wave turns into a tsunami,” Khera said.

Highlighting the drawbacks in the current vaccination protocol, he said the government has to curtail vaccine wastage which stands at 6.5 per cent and allow greater access to people willing to get vaccinated. 

He expressed concern over vaccine wastage of 17.6 per cent and 9.4 per cent in states like Telangana and Uttar Pradesh respectively that surpassed the national average.

Khera also asked why the government did not plan the nuances of vaccine logistics and supply chain in advance to ensure that there were no shortage of vaccines.

“Why is the government by not bridging the innovation gap and insisting on local trials in the time of a pandemic, making it even more difficult for various vaccine manufacturers to enter India,” he asked.

The Congress leader also termed “insensitive” a remark made by the health secretary who said that the vaccine will be made available to “those who need it and not those who want it”.

He also criticised police high-handedness and exorbitant challans in Delhi, saying it is not the answer to ensure adherence to COVID-19 norms.

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