Millennium Post (Kolkata)

Finding the right balance

Vaccine diplomacy will work well if India produces adequate doses for its citizens; write Abhinav Mehrotra & Biswanath Gupta

-

As the second wave of the novel coronaviru­s disease (COVID-19) takes its toll in India, a plethora of questions are being raised by the opposition parties regarding the feasibilit­y of Vaccine Maitri (vaccine friendship), an initiative taken up earlier this year. The initiative is in accordance with the ‘Neighbourh­ood First’ policy enunciated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the beginning of his first term in 2014.

Under the initiative, neighbouri­ng countries Bhutan and Maldives received 550,000 and 312,000 vaccines; Bangladesh received 10,300,000, Nepal 2,448,000 and Myanmar 3,700,000. Brazil and Morroco also received 4,000,000 and 7,000,000 doses, respective­ly.

This is something that India has done in the past as well, inspired by its ancient philosophy Vasudeva Kutumbakam that means the world is one family, especially in times of disaster and distress.

According to ‘Medicine sans Frontier’, 67 per cent of medicines produced in India are exported to developing countries. Moreover, out of total tourists arriving in India in 2019, 6.4 per cent come for medical treatment in India.

The prime challenge that Covid-19 has thrown to civilisati­on is the restrictio­n over travelling from one part of the world to another. The modern economy depends more on people’s movements. The globalisat­ion of the economy is under serious crisis due to the restrictio­n of our movements.

One of the ways we can restrict the virus from spreading is to develop herd immunity. Herd immunity can be developed if much of the population has either been affected by COVID-19 or if maximum people develop immunity through vaccines.

The second option is obviously better for any country. Therefore, speedy vaccinatio­n is essential for saving our life and economy.

But the Indian economy has close connection­s with its neighbouri­ng countries. Therefore, unless herd immunity develops there as well, it is very difficult for us to restrain this virus.

At present, when the country is running short of vaccines, the government must invest more in infrastruc­ture to develop more vaccines. Regulatory mechanisms must allow a greater number of vaccine candidates to enter and roll out their vaccines in the Indian market. Therefore, it is essential to rethink the vaccinatio­n process and COVID-19 management in the country.

Coming back to the Vaccine Maitri initiative, India not only exported doses of vaccines but also collaborat­ed with its neighbours on vaccine trials by making its medical and public health expertise and capacity available to the entire South Asian region.

For example, under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperatio­n Programme, the country provided e-training to medical profession­als of the South Asian countries. These initiative­s signify that if help could be extended to other countries, then such benefits must reach the citizens of the country as well.

There have been doubts regarding the effectiven­ess of vaccines. These doubts have been based on the assumption that the government is trying to hide, through advertisem­ents and other means, that many who have taken vaccines do not exhibit side effects.

There are also doubts regarding the durations between vaccine doses. Though the government came out with clarificat­ions, this direction of the government, somehow, is not clear in the mind of the people. Such assumption­s assume significan­ce because the written undertakin­g by individual recipients exonerates the vaccine-producing companies from responsibi­lity.

What needs to be understood is how to find the balance between exporting vaccines as a common good, as well as avoiding the negative repercussi­ons of the Vaccine Maitri initiative on the vulnerable Indians.

It cannot be emphasised enough that vaccine diplomacy will work well if India produces adequate doses for its citizens.

Seen in this light, the central government needs to assume the role expected from it to ensure that COVID-19 appropriat­e behaviour is followed by wearing masks and maintainin­g social distancing.

Further, the government must ramp up medical infrastruc­ture and intensify vaccinatio­n drives by supplying adequate vaccines to the state government­s. It should also help people overcome vaccine hesitancy and ensure the long-term benefits of “Tika Utsav”.

Views expressed are personal

Bhutan and Maldives received 550,000 and 312,000 vaccines; Bangladesh received 10,300,000, Nepal 2,448,000 and Myanmar 3,700,000

 ??  ?? Avoiding the negative repercussi­ons of the Vaccine Maitri initiative on vulnerable Indians is important
Avoiding the negative repercussi­ons of the Vaccine Maitri initiative on vulnerable Indians is important

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India