UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. Dubai: Last year by this time of the month, most of the world understood the gravity of coronavirus pandemic. Nations have gathered the required strength to impose unprecedented restrictions in order to prepare well to curb the growing threat of pandemic. Cases mounted and economies were shut in the wake of the pandemic with a claim to save lives. Migration of labour across states was the biggest event of our times where we have witnessed them suffering, howling on roads with their families, searching for food and hope to survive. After surviving for more than a year, it’s time to introspect that where do we stand and what are we dealing with at ground level.
Indian government’s denial mode on India’s Covid-19 crisis
Low testing rate and poor healthcare facilities emerged as the primary concerns in India. Numbers were growing rapidly by August 2020 and India was among the top three nations in terms of new cases recorded. However, Indian Government stood its ground on denying community transmission for the longest time. Modi’s desperation to be positioned as the best leader in the world and put India on a baseless pedestal of ‘World leader’, the growing crisis was not even acknowledged. Denial of the severity of the situation has led to a bigger second wave of Covid-19 crisis in India. Modi government’s short-sightedness and his dysfunctional administration caused more damage to the nation than the pandemic. The NewYork Times reported a story on India’s economic devastation caused by the unplanned nationwide shutdown by Modi government. The international media and several reports also pointed out the flaws in the biased role of Indian media and weak opposition which resulted in comfortable escape of Prime Minister Modi from any internal questioning or criticism.
India being a major pharma player has a huge vaccine manufacturing capacity. With more than 1.5 billion doses produced and sold globally, Pune based Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd. is now the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. Still, sourcing vaccine for the 1.4 billion population is a big challenge and rolling out the vaccine is another. Indian Currently depends on 2 vaccines Covishield and Covaxin.
Covishield is termed as “highly effective” by Serum Institute of India and the claim is backed by phase III trial data from Brazil and United Kingdom. However, experts from the scientific community pointed out the lack of bridging study of the vaccine on Indians which raise concerns over its accuracy.
Covaxin, on the other hand, was under trails when Indian regulator approved the use of this vaccine for “restricted use in emergency situations in public interest”. The lack of absence of data on the effectiveness of the vaccine, use of an ‘incomplete studied vaccine’ on such huge population, these logics failed in front of the manufacturers’ claim that the vaccine is safe.
Indian government recently approved the emergency use of Sputnik V as India overtook nations like Brazil to secure the second position in growing number of cases in the world. However, the Russian vaccine is expected to be available for public only by the end of the next quarter. This clearly indicates that India will continue to depend on the other two vaccines.
Under it’s COVAX program, India is supplying vaccines to countries like Pakistan and Africa. Manufacturing capacity being the strength of the nation, India is aiming to boost its international footprints but the challenge remains intact that weather the Indian government through its existing healthcare infrastructure, be able to provide the quality healthcare to its own people to fight with the Covid-19 crisis.
Will Government take these essential steps?
According to ICMR’s data, India is yet to reach the 10% mark of coverage through vaccination and lead in the fight with Covid-19 crisis. Analysis of a leading publication Mint indicates that at current vaccination pace, India is expected to achieve less than 70% coverage by end of this year. Its high time for the Indian Government to engage in conversations with vaccine manufacturers to speed up the approval process for Foreign vaccines which can boost the vaccine availability in India.
Recently former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh advised government to allow to import vaccine that has been cleared for use by credible authorities such as the USFDA, for a limited period without insisting on domestic bridging trials.
The recent stories coming from all corners of the country reflects a different picture to what the Indian government is portraying. Lack of oxygen, unavailability of beds in hospitals, Remdesivir injections and medicines like Fabiflu are emerging as the key concerns for people on ground fighting with Covid-19 crisis. A practical strategy based on the far-sightedness and lessons learnt from the mistakes committed in last one year can be the efficient way for the government to handle this unprecedented emergency of Cvoid-19 crisis. Instead of recovering from the wider impact of pandemic, India will undoubtedly be pushed to another level of emergency if Indian government continue to remain in denial mode over the growing concerns of oxygen crisis or poor healthcare infrastructure.