NEW DELHI: Stressing on COVID-19 vaccine for all in the country, the Congress on Wednesday 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.
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera 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.
"There is dilly-dallying on vaccine approval and regulatory protocols that has held back many globally accepted and approved safe vaccines from entering the Indian market.
This ensures overdependence on limited vaccines, therefore, delaying the nationwide vaccination program.
Diversification of vaccines based on their globally proven track record must be looked at immediately.
"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".
"When there is a national drive of a new vaccine, the first thing that the government should have done is work on engaging with stakeholders and citizen's networks to ensure that 'vaccine safety and necessity' awareness was created on the ground upto the village level," he said, noting that the hesitation is because of lack of details and clarity by the government.
He also criticised police high-handedness and exorbitant challans in Delhi, saying it is not the answer to ensure adherence to COVID-19 norms.
Khera noted that one of the fundamental principles of fighting a pandemic like coronavirus is collaboration and not generation of fear and imposition of state-sponsored excesses.