Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday (April 14) today took a jab at the Centre for mocking him over his demand to fast-track foreign vaccine approvals given that the government has now decided to speed up approvals for COVID vaccines made in western nations and Japan.
He was severely criticised by BJP leaders who had taunted him for “lobbying” for pharma companies by asking for “arbitrary approvals for foreign vaccines.”
But, following the DGCA’s emergency approval of Sputnik V vaccine and the government’s resolve to fast-track emergency approval for foreign-made COVID vaccines in the backdrop of a relentless rise in cases, he got an opportunity to hit back.
In his tweet on Wednesday, the Congress MP used a quote by trade union activist Nicholas Klein but wrongly attributed to Mahatma Gandhi to hit back at the government: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
As India grapples with a severe second wave, which shows no sign of abating, the government is on a quest to bring in more eligible foreign vaccines into the country. “We hope and we invite the vaccine makers such as Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and others…to be ready to come to India as early as possible,” said VK Paul, chairman of the National Expert Committee on Vaccine Administration on April 13.
The Indian government now plans to amplify its basket of vaccines and boost its vaccination programme by clearing the way for emergency use approval to vaccines approved by the World Health Organisation and by authorities in US, Europe, the UK and Japan in India. They would be mandated to get post-approval parallel to bridging clinical trial. Henceforth, companies will not require to conduct small, local safety trials for their vaccines before seeking emergency approval.
This move comes in the wake of several states complaining that they have run out of vaccine stocks. Moreover, India registered more than 1.84 lakh new COVDI-19 cases in the last 24 hours, while fatalities too shot up by 1,027 to 1,72,085.
It is this volte-face by the government after lambasting Gandhi for urging the government to open up the vaccination programme to more vaccines beyond Covidshield and Covaxin that the Congress leader has highlighted in his tweet.
In his letter to PM Modi, Gandhi had criticised the “snail’s pace” at which India’s vaccination programme was proceeding and that we had only vaccinated less than 1 per cent of the population in three months. This slow pace will have a “catastrophic effects” and gravely decelerate India’s economy, he had warned.
He also mocked PM Modi by writing that to make the vaccination programme effective, it should move beyond putting an individual’s picture on the vaccination certificate. And, the centre’s “poor implementation and oversight” was undermining vaccine makers and the scientific community.
However, Gandhi’s letter to PM Modi had triggered a nasty rebuttal from Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Responding to one of the Congress MP’s demand to fast-track vaccine approvals, Prasad had scornfully said: “After failing as a part-time politician, has Rahul Gandhi switched to full time lobbying? First he lobbied for fighter plane companies by trying to derail India’s acquisition programme. Now he is lobbying for pharma companies by asking for arbitrary approvals for foreign vaccines.”
And, he said that besides vaccination, there needs to be adequate focus on “testing, tracing and treating”. He dismissed Rahul Gandhi as being ignorant and arrogant who is clueless about what he is talking about.