Skip to main content

Modi's new 'universal' vaccine policy still favours urban elite, has no walk-in facility

Counterview Desk 

Top international NGO, Oxfam, and health rights network, Forum for Medical Ethics Society, even as welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent announcement for partial free vaccines, have insisted on the need to for “a more inclusive vaccine policy”, pointing out, “Efforts are required on vaccine equity to speed up the vaccination process.”
An Oxfam India email alert sent to Counterview said, this is particularly important as under the new policy nearly 25% of the vaccine supplies “will continue to be available for private hospitals”, which will “skew distribution to urban elites, given the fact that “80% of doses administered in the private sector in May were distributed in Delhi NCR, Mumbai Metro, Bengaluru and Hyderabad alone”, and “50% of vaccine doses were monopolized by only nine hospitals.”
It said, “A price cap of INR 150 as service charges for private hospitals will have limited impact until profiteering is addressed at source. It is time for India to enhance transparency in the agreements with vaccine manufacturers, take steps to keep the vaccine not-for-profit and must do all that is required for enabling compulsory licensing to ramp up vaccine manufacturing.”

Text:

Oxfam India and Forum for Medical Ethics Society (FMES) welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to procure 75% of vaccines in India and providing them free of cost to the states. The latest decision is in line with the demands of the People's Vaccine Alliance in India which submitted a letter endorsed by over 600 prominent activists, doctors and citizens to the Prime Minister on May 17.
We welcome the commitment to free delivery, central procurement of the vaccine, a partial price cap in private hospitals and the extension of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kayan Ann Yojana. However, People’s Vaccine Alliance wants to reiterate that the new vaccine policy is far from universal and accessible.
Government efforts fail to ensure free vaccination for all by reserving 25% of India’s vaccine supply for the rich 25% of the vaccine supplies will continue to be available for private hospitals. This policy will skew distribution to urban elites given that 80% of doses administered in the private sector in May were distributed in Delhi NCR, Mumbai Metro, Bengaluru and Hyderabad alone. Indeed, 50% of vaccine doses were monopolized by only 9 hospitals. 
While, the Central Government's decision to direct states to cap service charges in private hospitals at Rs 150 is appreciated, People's Vaccine Alliance urges the Prime Minister to address pandemic profiteering and declare 100% centralised procurement of the vaccine for equitable distribution.

Transparency in the distribution of vaccines to the states and UTs

Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said: 
“Successful vaccination drives are rooted in detailed district plans and social mobilisation strategies to reach vulnerable communities; these are missing in the Covid-vaccination drive time around. India needs to start maintain disaggregated records of people vaccinated by income, social group and gender to allow us to understand the gap in the extent of vaccination of India’s rich and poor and its Dalits, Adivasis and minorities; men and women.”
Only 15% rural households have access to the Internet and only 24% of India’s population has smartphones making the current vaccination enrolment strategy discriminatory. The near complete reliance on on-line appointments for vaccination without providing walk-in facilities for those under 45 tends to exclude those who lack internet access, the elderly living alone, those with disability and populations such as homeless and pavement dwellers and those in institutions and women. 
A more targeted bottom-up approach is needed to ensure vaccination nearer to peoples’ habitations, especially in high coronavirus prevalence areas. Vaccine slot registrations through offline modes and phone calls or SMS should be encouraged considering the deep digital divide in the country.
Sunita Sheel, General Secretary of Forum for Medical Ethics Society said: 
“We lost critical six-seven weeks impacting adversely equitable access to vaccine across states due to the Center’s earlier decision to discard a tested approach of centralized procurement of vaccines. Now that the decision is reversed, it is crucial that vaccine distribution across states is informed by epidemiological evidence as opposed to the ad-hoc allocation of dosages to eliminate influence and interference of non-scientific factors. 
"This requires meaningful all-state consultation on an ongoing basis and scientific advisors to states to engage with the ‘moving target’ of statewide needs. Only and only an evidence-based response will help us out of the pandemic.”
Furthermore, with gaps in vaccination rates opening up among states, there is a need for greater transparency in the distribution of vaccines to the states by the central government. Reports suggest, Gujarat alone had 60% of the entire country's vaccines on May 1 for 18-44 age group; consequently, several states complained to the Prime Minister about inequitable distribution.

Regulation of pandemic profiteering by vaccine manufactures and doing more to address root causes of vaccine shortage

India's global leadership in the push for a TRIPS waiver on Covid vaccine is important not just for ensuring domestic vaccine production, but also globally. The limitations of closed-door IP protected bilateral tech transfer partnerships between pharmaceuticals have been demonstrated by the AstraZeneca with Sirum Institute of India (SII) that have failed to deliver universal vaccination, but have allowed for profits of as high as 750-2000% per dose by vaccine manufacturers.
A price cap of INR 150 as service charges for private hospitals will have limited impact until profiteering is addressed at source. It is time for India to enhance transparency in the agreements with vaccine manufacturers, take steps to keep the vaccine not-for-profit and must do all that is required for enabling compulsory licensing to ramp up vaccine manufacturing.

Comments

TRENDING

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Did Netaji turn blind eye to Japanese massacre while in Andaman during World War-II?

Dr Diwan Singh Kalepani museum off Chandigarh By Rajiv Shah  Did Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose ignore the massacre carried out by the Japanese army in Andaman and Nicobar islands during the Second World War? It would seem so, if one goes by the account of Mohinder Singh Dhillon, who authored a book in memory of his father, 'A Titan in the Andamans, Dr Diwan Singh Kalepani'. Dr Diwan Singh was tortured to death by the Japanese soldiers in the cellular jail in Andaman in 1944.

A golden goose, GoI bent on selling LIC 'for pittance' without consulting stakeholders

By Thomas Franco*  In spite of strong opposition from all sections of the society, the Finance Minister (FM) recently asked her Ministries to speed up Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) Initial Public Offer (IPO). Does she realise that this can lead to collapse of the economy over a period of time because LIC is a golden goose which is giving golden eggs regularly to the economy, development projects and providing social security to the majority of the marginalised people of this country.

Sweden-backed study: India won't achieve 2030 UN goals, officials can't recognise SDG

By Rajiv Shah  A Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC)-sponsored study, carried out by the advocacy group Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) India, seeking to analyse the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No 12, Responsible Consumption and Production (RCP), has regretted, it is "very unlikely" India will achieve any of the targets of SDG 12 by 2030 "unless some serious measures are taken by the government to reverse the present trend."

Modi's Gujarat 'ignores' India's biggest donor of Azad Hind Fauj, Dhoraji's Habib Sheth

By Dr Hari Desai* One surely feels happy that the statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose is being installed near the India Gate in New Delhi. Every Indian and even Netaji’s 79-year-old daughter Prof Anita Bose Pfaff feels happy about the statue at the most important area of the capital. In an interview with an Indian TV, Anita, who is a German citizen, mentions that she thinks if not Netaji’s only Mahatma Gandhi’s statue should have been there. She may be aware that there existed a plan to install life-sized statue of the Father of the Nation at that place.  Even after differences with Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel which led Netaji to leave the Indian National Congress, Bose was the first person to call Mahtma Gandhi Father of the Nation on July 6,1944 in his Ragoon Radio broadcast, and sought Bapu’s blessings as the Supreme Commander of the Indian National Army (INA). Till 1968 there was statue of King George V at India Gate. It was removed and placed in the Coronation Park, New Del

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam* In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

Why Church in India today needs a Rutilio Grande, martyred for stance on social justice

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  For the people of El Salvador, January 22, 2022 will be more than just a red-letter day. Three of their sons, Jesuit Fr Rutilio Grande and his two lay associates 72-year-old Manuel Solorzano and 15-year-old Nelson Rutilio Lemus (and Italian Franciscan missionary Fr Cosme Spessotto who was also martyred) will be beatified in San Salvador.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

'Dargah site was a temple': Claim in Gujarat following post-Babri verdict demands in UP

By Rajiv Shah  Will Gujarat also see demands to replace mosques and dargahs with Hindu temples? It would seem so, if a new fact-finding team conclusion is any indication. Apprehending the “danger” of communal conflagration, it has cited the claim on a 15th century dargah was originally a Hindu temple – allegedly quite on line with what has been happening in UP following the Supreme Court verdict on Babri Mosque.

Is it time to celebrate India's 'improved' sex ratio? Reasons to question NFHS data

By Aditi Chaudhary*  The recently published National Family Health Survey (NFHS) factsheet brought cheers amongst the public and the government. With Child Sex ratio (number of females per 1000 males in the age group 0 - 6 years) and overall sex ratio (the total number of females per 1000 males), both showing an improvement, NFHS-5 (2019-21) got applauded by all around.