Writer Chetan Bhagat on Twitter has asked why did India fail to strike the vaccine deal with Pfizer and procure the vaccine rolled out by the pharmaceutical giant; the same administered in many Western countries.
In a series of tweets, he accuses the Government of India for not discussing enough with Pfizer, and also, assumes that India did not promote Pfizer on purpose, so that made-in-India vaccines wouldn’t lose traction..
Soon, people on social media replied with hard facts and cogent arguments; within few minutes social media users proved that his understanding of the issue was incorrect and blaming the GoI was misplaced.
The Facts About Pfizer
According to Chetan Bhagat, India should follow the approach “Let’s work out” instead of asserting itself with “listen to us”.
This proposition that India should have rolled out Pfizer vaccines without making its terms of procurement and quality clear itself is absurd. Each country should onboard vaccines on its own terms since it the Government which is ultimately answerable to its people.
India asked Pfizer for the local trial. Was it an unreasonable demand?
Do the likes of Chetan Bhagat take responsibility if Pfizer vaccine had an adverse impact on the Indian populace? Critics like Mr Bhagat have the luxury of moving on to another topic of criticism in such instances, unlike the common citizen.
Coming on to the second criticism of Chetan Bhagat: He contemplates that part of the reason for India not having struck a deal with Pfizer is because it is a foreign vaccine. This is a fictional argument born out of the writer’s imagination.
While India takes great pride in Made in India vaccines, it has always treated role of vaccines beyond boundaries. There is no such policy that India is willing to use only indigenous vaccine. In fact, Russia-based Sputnik V Vaccine has got emergency approval recently and any other foreign manufacturers are open to apply for India’s approval.
Nevertheless, it is unimaginable for anyone to demand that all foreign vaccines should be given immediate approval without even conducting adequate trials.
Further, Chetan Bhagat argues that if India had ordered Pfizer vaccines back in December, many lives would have been saved now.
Quick fact check – even with early contracts, Pfizer has caused delays in Europe, and Australia.
The Other Concerns About Pfizer
Chetan Bhagat seems to be indirectly suggesting that India should have agreed for whatever terms Pfizer puts forward, irrespective of quality standards, logistics feasibility, pricing, and even the potential impact a vaccine without trial could have on the population!
Instead, there are disturbing reports about Pfizer which is arm-twisting many nations for vaccine deal.
The Price and Other Issues
According to a Reuters Report on April 14, 2021, Pfizer’s vaccine in the EU contract is priced at $ 23 per dose.
So, for India it costs anywhere not less than Rs 1,500 per dose.
This is at a time, when some Indian political parties in opposition are blaming Indian vaccine manufacturers for “profiteering” when the stipulated price is as low as Rs 600 per dose (less than half of Pfizer).
The issue with Pfizer doesn’t end there.
According to the recent reports, Pfizer is now saying that a third dose may be needed to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and it is also saying that booster dose for prevention against COVID-19 may be needed for every year going forward.
Now, one needs to calculate the cost of Pfizer doses with this warning of ‘endless cycle’.
Rahul Gandhi too Cheered for Pfizer
Back in November 2020, Rahul Gandhi demanded that the ‘Government should work out logistics to make Pfizer vaccine available.’
Many Congress members had demanded for liberalised approval of foreign vaccines so that the ‘market’ can decide the distribution of vaccine instead of the Central Government controlling it.
Their demand was acted upon when the Central Government let the states negotiate with approved vaccine makers and subsequently procure stock.
Now the same Congress is crying about “profiteering” and demands Union Government to give free vaccines to all.
Chetan Bhagat may be ignorant that he is demanding Pfizer vaccine to be rolled out without any norms. But on the political front, there is an evidently dangerous discourse that is shaping.
It has three disturbing elements: One, blame the Indian vaccine manufacturers for “profiteering”; Two, build pressure on the authorities to accept foreign vaccines like Pfizer without adequate trials; Three, create a scenario where the Central Government is forced to pay a hefty amount to foreign companies while State Government coffers don’t bear any expense – many States are ruled by Congress and its allies.