Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding an immediate moratorium on COVID-19 vaccine exports and opening up of the vaccination to “everyone who needs it”. In the letter, Gandhi also sought more say to the state governments in vaccine procurement and distribution. He also asked for a provision of a direct income support to the vulnerable sections amid the disastrous second wave of COVID-19 in India, as he extended his support to the vaccination program. “I humbly request you to provide vaccine suppliers with necessary resources to increase manufacturing capacity and place an immediate moratorium on vaccine export,” Gandhi said in his letter to the prime minister. “Open up vaccination to everyone who needs it,” he demanded, seeking fast-tracking of approval of other vaccines as per norms and guidelines. Gandhi also asked the prime minister to double the central allocation for vaccine procurement from the existing Rs 35,000 crore and give state governments a greater say in vaccine procurement and distribution. His suggestions came a day after Prime Minister Modi said vaccines will have to be prioritised due to limited supply and lamented that some people were playing politics on the issue. Questioning the government for permitting large-scale exports of vaccines, he said, “While our nation is facing vaccine starvation, more than six crore doses of vaccines have been exported.” Gandhi alleged that the state governments were repeatedly highlighting vaccine shortages only to receive intemperate statements by the union health minister. He accused the health minister of targeting Opposition-ruled states and undercutting cooperative federalism. “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,” Gandhi asked. Stressing that his party supports a well-planned, universalised and speedy vaccination drive, he said, “Our vaccination program has to move beyond an individual’s picture on the vaccine certificate, towards guaranteeing maximum vaccination.” Expressing concern over the rising cases of the coronavirus, the former Congress chief said that over the last year, the country suffered irreparable losses, made tremendous sacrifices, and yet, it is 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’,” he said. Lamenting that the vaccination drive is slow, Gandhi claimed at the current rate, it would take years to inoculate 75 per cent of the population. “This will have catastrophic effects and will gravely decelerate India’s economy,” he added.

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