Mamata Banerjee writes to PM Modi, says Centre's vaccine policy appears hollow, without substance
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, hitting out at the Centre's new vaccine policy and terming it "hollow, without substance and a regrettable show" of evasion of responsibility.
The central government on Monday announced that everyone above 18 years of age will be eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 from May 1, liberalising the vaccination drive to allow states, private hospitals and industrial establishments to procure the doses directly from manufacturers.
"I am informed that the central government has announced the much-delayed universal vaccine policy on 19th April, 2021, which appears to be hollow, without substance and a regrettable show of evasion of responsibility by the central government at a time of crisis," Banerjee said in the letter.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does a vaccine work?
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
How many types of vaccines are there?
There are broadly four types of vaccine - one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.View more Show
She also reminded the prime minister that she had in a letter dated February 24, 2021 requested his intervention to allow West Bengal to purchase vaccines directly with state resources and give free vaccination to people of the state.
"No response was received from your end. Now when the number of cases in the second wave of COVID is spiralling like anything, the Centre has chosen to tactically indulge in empty rhetoric and shy away from its responsibility for making available vaccines to the people of the country," Banerjee wrote.
She pointed out that the announcement made on Monday did not address major issues like ensuring quality, efficacy, stable flow of supply of required number of doses by the manufacturers and also the price at which the vaccines are to be purchased by the states.
"It is apprehended that the announced policy might lead to unscrupulous mechanisms in the market, including pricing of vaccines as it appears to be based on market prices which may put the common people under huge financial burden.
"More importantly, the supply would also become very erratic because the vaccine manufacturers are hardly prepared to scale up their production capacities to the desired levels to meet the nationwide demand," the West Bengal chief minister said.
She added that the required vaccines are not currently available in the market and requested for steps to ensure their availability at the earliest.
"In sum, I would earnestly request you to kindly ensure a fair, transparent and credible vaccination policy addressing all the issues outlined above, which would enable the people of the country to get vaccines urgently at affordable prices as per current scale as applicable," Banerjee said.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.