We might take an ethical stand, but unfortunately global politics does not move that way. India is acknowledged as the biggest manufacturer of vaccines in the world. We appreciate the stand which the Pune based manufacturer took to produce vaccines formulated by UK researchers, much before the vaccines were officially given the green signal regarding its efficacy and safety. It was a great business risk. But finally when it was approved, the move did save on the crucial time to save lives against the pandemic.
The world however is going through one of its worst phases – politically, economically and socially – since the past one hundred years when the Spanish Flu struck. That pandemic too ravaged the world for almost two years killing millions. Knowledge-wise, we may be in a better position today to tackle the virus. But somehow we are fumbling. The mutation of these microscopic cells is maddening the specialists. If after years of effort a vaccine is prepared to tackle the virus in one form, it has already taken a new shape through mutation. This has exactly what has happened with the Covid 19 virus and the vaccines formulated to tackle it. With the new strain of the virus that is spreading throughout the world – and that supposedly has originated in the UK and not China as the previous one – has raised questions on the efficacy of the present day vaccine created in UK and produced in India.
But UK has already brought the spread of the second strain under control by vaccinating the people on a war footing thus proving the vaccine is effective with the virus even in the mutated form. But the new ‘UK variety’ has already taken India – the manufacturer of the vaccine – by storm and the country is reeling under the second wave. The infection figures are rising exponentially; the death figures are also alarming. The entire spread of the first flush came under control for the strong lock down steps and timely vaccination, though there was criticism for the steps taken. But somehow things look quite lackadaisical in the second phase. Elections are on in several states with the political leaders drumming up huge crowds in the meetings. No precautions taken. Millions take dip in the Ganga in Hardwar and other places for religious purposes. No precautions again.
What is worse, the states are allegedly facing crisis in supply of vaccines. Some said they have only stock for two days, some said even less. The Indian government, as a humanitarian step, was gifting vaccines to many developing countries. It had also allowed the manufacturers to export vaccines. Now with the shortage of vaccines surfacing, criticism is also loud as to why the vaccines should move out of the country when the people are facing a crisis? Some show the US model of ‘nationalistic’ distribution: the country’s need is first priority.
We must admit the Covid 19 is a global humanitarian crisis. No politics should influence the distribution of vaccines. India cannot go back on its promises to provide vaccines to other countries. Similarly Indians themselves cannot be left vulnerable. If necessary, the government should help to step up production. The manufacturer in a recent interview said that they would need at least Rs 30,000 crores to step up the production immediately. The government needs to help. The Russian vaccine is also coming shortly. Other varieties too will be available soon. But the spread has to be stopped firmly. No laxity should be tolerated. Common people too have become careless about wearing masks, without realizing the damage. We have dark days ahead, both economically and socially, if we do not sit up now.