IT body urges emergency nod for all WHO-approved vaccines
India’s IT industry body Nasscom has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to grant emergency use authorisation for all WHO-approved vaccines in view of domestic vaccine shortages, and temporarily relax stringent Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) norms to ease the flow of overseas COVID-19 relief into the country.
Terming the devastating economic and social impact of the second wave of COVID-19 that is ‘being felt across the country unprecedented’, Nasscom’s missive to the PM listed three ‘critical asks’ to enable industry to act faster to help the country navigate the second wave and better prepare for future waves of the pandemic. “Times like this call for greater partnership and collaboration across industries and the government,” it pointed out.
Curbs to distribution
“Many countries and global companies are providing aid to India and are helping the healthcare infrastructure deal with the surge. However, the amended provisions of the FCRA Act 2020 are proving to be a deterrent,” the letter to the PM said.
On May 3, the government permitted imports without GST levies for pandemic relief material donated from abroad for free distribution in the country, delegating States to certify the entities that will receive such imports. However, no exemption has been granted from the FCRA norms that require domestic entities receiving foreign aid to get an approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“Given the humanitarian crisis, we would request the government to grant a temporary waiver to the FCRA Act and the 2020 amendments. This will enable NGOs to transfer funds between FCRA-approved NGOs and non-FCRA approved NGOs,” it said.
The amendments flagged by Nasscom prohibit entities receiving foreign contributions from transferring those to any other person, so even entities registered under the FCRA for providing healthcare support, are unable to pass on the relief material to patients or smaller NGOs.
Making a strong pitch for liberalising vaccine imports, Nasscom has said the availability of vaccines particularly for the private sector ‘continues to be very challenging’ though firms are attempting to source them.
“…We request the government to provide emergency use authorisation for all WHO-approved vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna, J & J, and others that have gone through stringent approval process globally — to ensure there is no vaccine divide in the country,” it said.
The statement assumes significance as States are struggling to source vaccines, and several of them are in the process of floating global tenders to import vaccines.
Nasscom also requested the PM to use data more effectively to manage the pandemic and respond better, stating it had flagged the urgent need for a data utilisation strategy to counter the COVID crisis even last July.
“Covid tracking and vaccination, insights, and analytics from data could play a key role in decision making and early warning signals. We must ensure effective access to data for insights and planning, across all states and key departments, on a priority,” it reiterated to the PM.
“We are in this together and the industry is committed to doing all we can to support all efforts to save lives and livelihood in the country,” the communique concluded.
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