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Prime Minister of India
The pandemic threatens all of us. Unchecked, the virus could kill millions and risks pushing a billion people into poverty. Ensuring everyone has ethical and safe access to the vaccine will save lives, reduce the pressure on the healthcare system and accelerate India’s return to normalcy. India needs to drastically scale up vaccination, particularly for those who are vulnerable, in the shortest possible time.
This calls for leadership from your government. This is not just morally imperative, but time critical since it may be a year or less before the virus mutates to the extent that the majority of first-generation vaccines may be ineffective. Many Indians cannot afford to buy the vaccine which amounts to 43% of the monthly income for the bottom fifth of India’s population. Vaccine manufacturers should not make profits at this time of crisis.
Accordingly, we call on the government to take action to ensure a peoples’ vaccine. It must have a detailed, time-bound and transparent COVID-19 Vaccine policy and action plan arrived at in consultation with the States and India’s experts and citizens at large and ensure transparency in contractual agreements reached by the government with the pharma sector.
We urge the government to:
1. Ensure that the vaccine is purchased at true cost prices and provided free of charge to all.
2. Ensure its fair allocation which prioritizes at-risk groups, is sensitive to the existence of the digital divide and can reach the vulnerable where they are.
3. Be rooted in large-scale vaccine procurement by the Central Government at regulated prices which do not financially cripple the finances of India’s states or pitch them against each other in the quest of scarce lifesaving vaccines.
4. Immediately enhance financial outlays to public health and do what it takes to make the above happen through all possible steps, including compulsory licensing of vaccines and ramping up public sector vaccine manufacturing capacity, to strengthen the public health system to be better prepared for the potential next wave of the pandemic.