After the Centre on Tuesday fast-tracked emergency approval for foreign-produced COVID-19 vaccines, senior Congress leader and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor slammed Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
"It took the Govt of India four days to overrule @rsprasad & agree with @RahulGandhi! Foreign vaccines given emergency approval -- but I am sure my friend RSP will announce the U-turn unabashed & without retracting this screed," Tharoor tweeted.
This comes after Ravi Shankar Prasad had on Friday (April 9) criticised former Congress president Rahul Gandhi after the latter wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and had "lobbied" for the foreign vaccines.
Gandhi wrote, "Our vaccination program has to move beyond an individual’s picture on the vaccine certificate, towards guaranteeing maximum vaccination.” “Was the export of vaccines also an ‘oversight’, like many other decisions of this government, or an effort to garner publicity at the cost of our own citizens,” he asked.
Gandhi slammed the Centre for bypassing the states of their "right from vaccine procurement to registration". He suggested the vaccine suppliers be provided with the necessary resources to increase manufacturing capacity. He also sought an immediate moratorium on vaccine exports and a fast-track approval of other vaccines as per norms and guidelines.
In a series of tweets, Ravi Shankar Prasad then hit out at Gandhi, calling him a part-time politician and a "lobbyist" for foreign pharmaceutical companies.
"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," Prasad wrote.
"Rahul Gandhi must know that shortage in Congress ruled states is not of vaccines but of basic commitment towards health care. He should write letters to his party’s governments to stop their vasooli ventures & concentrate on administering the lakhs of vaccines they r sitting upon," he added.
However, only four days after Prasad's criticism of Rahul Gandhi, the Centre has fast-tracked emergency approval for foreign-produced jabs that have been granted similar clearances in other countries.
The first 100 beneficiaries of such foreign vaccines shall be assessed for seven days for safety outcomes before it is rolled out for further immunization programme within the country, the Union Health Ministry said.
The move is significant as it will make available several vaccines, including those made by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, in India. Currently, only two vaccines -- Covaxin by Bharat Biotech and Covishield by Serum Institute of India (SII) -- are being used for inoculation in India.