“If you look at the history of vaccinations in India, whether it was a vaccine for smallpox, hepatitis B or polio, you will see that India would have to wait decades for procuring vaccines from abroad. When vaccination programmes ended in other countries, it wouldn’t have even begun in our country.” With this statement on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit the hammer right on the nail, and perfectly summarised what has been plaguing India for years. An excessive dependence on foreign vaccine technologies has historically been devastating for India. Those who kept India in this state of perpetual misery benefitted tremendously, needless to say.
Which is why certain political forces and vested interest groups are so irked that India’s vaccination campaign against Covid-19 is so reliant on indigenously developed and manufactured vaccines. However, let us consider an alternate reality. One in which Narendra Modi is not the Prime Minister, and India’s healthcare system is in shambles. Covid-19 is raging through the country and those in power just could not care less. The situation is so bad that nobody is even counting the number of infections and deaths due to Covid-19 anymore.
Misery has been normalised. But then – vaccines begin showing results in Western countries. They work against the Chinese virus. Vaccines are granted emergency use authorisation in countries like the U.S. and UK. China has already got its vaccine plan sorted, even though it has developed substandard and potentially killer vaccines. All in all, major countries begin vaccinating their populations against Covid-19.
India has nowhere to go. There is death and despair all around. Naturally, all countries are aggressively vaccinating their own people first. They are not sharing vaccine doses with countries who have no resources to develop or produce their own jabs. India is simply waiting for some western nation to put a few million doses in our bowl. We are a country of 140 crore people. A few million doses pitched in by western nations from time to time hardly help a country of India’s size and scale.
The disease spreads on unabated. New variants keep coming up. Previous vaccines received by the privileged few are unable to protect them. Covid-19 becomes the new normal. All because India could not develop its own vaccines. We are so desperate for vaccines that we accept help from just about anywhere. The West has good vaccines, but they will not give us those without extracting huge prices which we are unable to pay.
China pitches in. It has surplus vaccines which do not work. But for a dying country, something is better than nothing. We agree to procure Chinese vaccines. They are lethal for humans. But we agree, nevertheless. China demands territories, indemnities, stakes in strategic assets – we give them all that they want. We begin a vaccination campaign with Chinese vaccines. Soon, India realises it has been played by the dragon.
Finally, a vaccine development programme begins domestically. It takes years for completion. The authorisation process takes up another year. There is no vaccine distribution plan when the authorisation is finally granted.
We are a mess.
Now compare this alternate reality with where we are today. Sure, we are hardly perfect. Our vaccination drive has had quite a few hiccups. But we are at least vaccinating lakhs of people every day. Soon, all hiccups will be overcome as manufacturers supply more and more vaccines. India is using vaccines manufactured domestically to inoculate its citizens. It does not need to look up to other countries with hopeful eyes.
Due to the fact that we have a strong government, Joe Biden was forced to bend the knee when the United States tried acting tough by blocking vaccine raw materials to India.
India, in the past seven years, has transformed as a nation. We would not have been able to vaccinate our own people if Narendra Modi was not voted to power in 2014. Today, we are sending vaccines around the world. Our story is nothing short of a miracle.
Small Pox was eradicated in North America & Europe by 1953.
Small Pox was eradicated in India in 1975!
The article itself recognizes that!
— Know The Nation (@knowthenation) June 8, 2021
India has suffered a lot in the past 70 years. Take for instance its helplessness and inability to timely procure lifesaving vaccines for different diseases. The Rotavirus vaccine was introduced in the world in 1998. It became available in India in 2015. The world got a vaccine for Japanese Encephalitis in 1930. In India, this vaccine was introduced in 2013. While India got the Hepatitis B vaccine in 2002, the world had it since 1982. Polio vaccine has been globally available since 1955. It only became available in India in 1978.
Comparatively – the first Covid-19 vaccines were given approval by countries like the U.S. and UK in December 2020. A month later, India became among the first countries to grant authorisation to Covid-19 vaccines. There is a startling impact which the governance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had on India. We would be in a different reality altogether had the status quoists retained power in 2014. We would be a country in ruins. Today, we are hopeful that universal vaccination against Covid-19 will be achieved by the end of 2021.