A day after former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ramp up vaccination efforts , Health Minister Harsh Vardhan alleged that the statements by Congress leaders were behind “vaccine hesitancy” in the country and accused Congress-ruled States to be “big contributors” in the second wave.
In his letter, Dr. Singh had suggested scaling up vaccination efforts, giving flexibility to State governments in deciding who needed to be vaccinated and expanding the number of vaccine producers by invoking compulsory licensing.
Responding to the letter, Dr. Vardhan said while the former Prime Minister understood the importance of vaccination, his party, the Congress, not only did not share such a view but was spreading “negativity”.
He said it was “shocking” to see that no senior member of the Congress had thanked Indian scientists for developing two vaccines under the most trying circumstances.
“Let alone thanking our scientists, many Congress members and Congress-ruled State governments have taken extraordinary interest in spreading falsehoods regarding the efficacy of these vaccines, thereby fuelling vaccine hesitancy, and playing with the lives of our countrymen,” Dr. Vardhan alleged.
Without naming anyone, the Health Minister also accused a sitting Chief Minister of a Congress-ruled State of “directly inciting people against an indigenously developed vaccine”.
“The irresponsible public pronouncements made by some of your leaders have resulted in a below national average vaccination coverage of senior citizens and even frontline workers in some of the Congress-ruled States. Please do note that it is these very same States that have also become the big contributors in the second wave of COVID-19 infection. The test positivity ratio in these States during the second wave is alarmingly high and they too could benefit from your counsel and wisdom,” the Health Minister alleged.
Dr. Vardhan also targeted the former Prime Minister over his suggestion of allowing more vaccine producers through emergency approval and to focus on vaccination as a percentage of India’s population and not absolute numbers.
“...I am sure that you will agree with me that this is a practice that must be followed uniformly and junior members of your party too must follow your advice. Quite obviously, it cannot be that the discussion on total cases, active cases or mortality is based on absolute numbers, which the Congress party often tries to do, but the vaccination numbers continue to be touted as a percentage of the population covered,” he said.
“Those who drafted your letter or advised you, have done a great disservice to your standing by misleading you regarding material that is already in public domain,” Dr. Vardhan said.
“For example, take the point that you have mentioned about allowing import of vaccines that have already been approved by credible foreign authorities. You made this suggestion on April 18, 2021, but a decision on this had already been taken a week ahead of your suggestion, on April 11, 2021. The same is the case with your suggestion regarding providing funds and other concessions to augment vaccine manufacturing,” the Health Minister said.