May 23, 2021

Declare Vaccine Manufacturing Workers as Frontline Workers And Vaccinate Them on Priority: CITU

IN an uncontrollable surge in Covid-19 cases all over the country, vaccinating the population of the country has become a top priority but as a result of insensitive and erroneous policies of the government and its decisions, there has been an enormous shortage of vaccines. When it is of utmost importance to scale up the vaccine production and import and go for universal free vaccination drive on a war footing for the entire population, the government is shamelessly succumbing to international drug mafia through the new vaccine policy by liberalising the vaccine sale and deregulating the prices through a discriminatory process.

As a result, the inoculation rate has constantly dropped from 35 lakhs per day in early April to 16 lakhs per day in the first week of May. India has barely reached 25 per cent of its July target as of now.

This calls for a drastic increase in the manufacturing of vaccines and thus makes the employees of vaccine manufacturing organisations one of the most essential workers in order to stop the surge. It is a matter of serious concern that the joint MD of Bharat Biotech, the organisation producing the Indian Covaxin has informed that 50 of its employees have tested positive for Covid-19 to indicate this as a reason for slowdown in production.

Due to the continuous demand and pressure from various quarters including the trade unions, three public sector companies, Mumbai's Haffkine Biopharmaceutical, Hyderabad's Indian Immunologicals and Bulandshahar's Bharat Immunologicals and Biologicals, have also been given the nod to produce Covaxin for increasing the vaccine production. The production of covaxin necessitates high safety since the live virus is inactivated.

It is surprising that the circular by the ministry of health and family welfare (MoHFW) only defines vaccine researchers as healthcare workers who will be vaccinated on priority basis but does not provide any such protection for the essential vaccine manufacturing employees/workers.

The Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU) demands that the MoHFW immediately notify all the employees/workers of the vaccine manufacturing organisations as frontline or healthcare workers and thus ensure that they are vaccinated at the earliest. The government must ensure that they get all other facilities including health and life insurance coverage and risk allowances. This should be a top priority to make sure that the vaccination targets can be reached by ensuring the well-being of the workers responsible to meet those targets.

CITU also demands that the government must scale up the vaccine production involving the public sector drug manufacturing companies to ensure universal free vaccination.