The coronavirus pandemic is knocking around with its second wave in the continent of Africa. With new infectious strains emerging simultaneously, it is a race against time to protect the continent which comparatively has a modest healthcare infrastructure not built to withstand a pandemic like COVID-19. As such, it is the Chinese and President Xi Jinping who is trying to use his vaccine diplomacy to force the untested phase-3 zombie COVID-19 vaccines to Africa to maximise the profits.
However, the African countries are sceptical about taking the Chinese vaccine, and in turn, it has presented a golden opportunity for India to expand its soft power and eject the paper dragon who has clawed its tentacles deep in the dark continent through the Belts and Road Initiative (BRI).
While Pfizer-BioNTech has offered to supply just 50 million COVID-19 vaccines to Africa starting from March to the end of this year — it is certainly clear that African countries will not be getting vaccine supply from the West early enough to control the second wave.
The big pharmaceutical companies of the West will be keeping an eye on the profit margins and Africa doesn’t seem like a bright prospect to earn huge returns. Moreover, with billions of doses required, it would be a near-impossible task to create the ultra-frosty refrigeration systems in such a quick time to store the aforementioned vaccines.
However, the Coavaxin vaccine developed indigenously by Bharat Biotech limited and the one developed by AstraZeneca-Oxford and produced in humongous quantities by Pune’s Serum Insititute of India (SII) has given a ray of hope to Africa due to its reliability, low-cost and ability to be stored at refrigerator temperature.
For Africa, where SII’s meningitis vaccine was priced at less than 50 cents and which the WHO credited for saving “hundreds of thousands of lives,” India-made COVID vaccines could be public health game-changers.In what comes as a testament to India’s medical achievements and rigorous quality controls, the World Health Organization has approved 47 vaccines from the country for exports, as compared to five vaccines from China.
Reported by TFI, South Africa recently announced that it made a deal with SII and will be getting 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine for its health workers starting this month.
“We are happy that the SII/ Astra Zeneca vaccine has already been approved by various regulators and is being rolled out in other countries. Therefore, as part of expediting the regulatory process National Department of Health and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAPRA) is applying reliance on that regulatory work,” said Zwelini Mkhize South African Health Minister.
Similarly, Kenya in East Africa, also announced that through the COVAX facility run by Bill and Melinda Gates, it had ordered 24 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with supply expected to start arriving in the second week of next month.
The two Chinese coronavirus vaccines named CoronaVac and SinoPharm have received a massive thumb down from the medical community for their efficacy percentage and overall lack of safety associated with it. The CoronaVac is said to have induced more than 73 side-effects when injected into the patients.
Xi Jinping had started injecting the untested vaccine as early as in July last year and its efficacy was often questioned by the health experts with some going as far as saying that the Chinese authoritarian regime was using the ordinary Chinese folks as guinea pigs.
Scepticism regarding the Chinese vaccine grew when the South American country of Brazil halted the clinical trials of the said vaccine. President Jair Bolsonaro openly lambasted the Chinese variant and refused to let the Chinese vaccine being injected on common Brazilians.
Reported by TFI, Brazil has struck a deal with Bharat Biotech for the indigenously developed vaccine. According to news reports, the Brazilian Association of Vaccine Clinics (ABCVAC), confirmed on its website it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bharat Biotech to purchase its Covaxin vaccine, which has already been approved for restricted emergency use in India.
The COVID-19 vaccine could be India’s big chance to make deep inroads into the resource-rich continent of Africa. The time is ripe for PM Modi led the Indian government to take the charge and play the role of a global leader and show that while one country brought the world to its hunches, the other became the messiah for the masses.