On Sunday, former prime minister Manmohan Singh in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the COVID-19 crisis suggested five measures to tackle the pandemic.
In a letter to the prime minister, the veteran Congress leader stressed that ramping up vaccination is the key to battling the pandemic and 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.
Noting that India currently has vaccinated only a small fraction of its population, Singh said he is certain that with the right policy design, "we can do much better and very quickly".
"There are many things we must do to fight the epidemic but a big part of this effort must be ramping up the vaccination programme," he said while listing several suggestions.
One of the key suggestions that Singh gave in his letter was that the government should indicate how this expected to 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 rollout.
He also appealed to Modi to assist vaccine producers "with funds and other concessions" so that they expand their manufacturing facilities quickly.
He further wrote that states should be given some flexibility to define the category of frontline workers to be vaccinated even if they are below 45.
Singh also said that any vaccine which has been cleared for use by credible authorities should be allowed to be imported without any "bridging trials".
A bridging trial is a supplementary clinical trial that is conducted in a new region, country to provide clinical data on efficacy, safety, dosage and dose regimen in that region. This will allow the new region that will allow extrapolation of the foreign clinical data to the new region.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare announced on Tuesday that it will fast-track the emergency-use authorisations given to foreign COVID-19 vaccines that have already been given approval in other countries but 'bridging trials' for even these pre-approved foreign COVID-19 vaccines will still need to be conducted.
"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," he wrote.
Singh said he is forwarding his suggestions for consideration in a spirit of constructive cooperation in which he has always believed and acted upon.
The suggestions come a day after the Congress Working Committee met and discussed the efforts required to fight the COVID pandemic and on the same day that the prime minister held a review meeting to check the status of preparedness of states to handle the COVID-19 situation.
On the issue of vaccination, prime minister Narendra Modi directed all officials to make efforts to utilize the entire national capacity, in the public as well as the private sector, to ramp up vaccine production.
India has seen a massive surge of COVID-19 cases with over two lakh cases being reported every day in the past four days.
With inputs from PTI