No doubt, one must be alarmed by the increase in Covid-19 cases. At the same time, it seems people should also be aware about the politics unfolding over vaccination. What is perhaps the best way for some state governments to escape from the management responsibility of fresh spike in Covid-19 cases? Blame it on the central government and claim that if not for “vaccine shortage” they might have won the war against Covid-19!
The Pakistan Question
Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government is evidently following this way. It is also trying to add and evoke a bit of emotion among people, hoping to make it angry against the central government by implying that instead of giving more vaccine to Indians, the government is providing vaccines to Pakistan.
AAP’s Raghav Chadha reportedly said, “the BJP-led Centre claims that Pakistan exports terrorism to India and on the other, India is exporting vaccines to the neighbouring country. India is directly or indirectly exporting more than six crore vaccine doses to Pakistan.”
At a time, Indians are wary of Pakistan because of its terror activities, the statement may trigger some anger among Indians. However, one needs to specify the context in which Pakistan is getting Made in India vaccine.
It is GAVI Alliance (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) that is providing Pakistan the vaccine dosages from the slot it purchased from Indian company.
AAP’s Call for Vaccine ‘Nationalism’ vs Reality
AAP’s line of argument that India should withhold export of vaccines till 130 crore Indians get vaccination may sound alluring but lacks practicality.
India, even before the arrival of vaccine, argued for the internationalism of vaccine, and there is a good reason behind that. Though India is the major global manufacturer of vaccines, international co-operation is must for vaccine development.
See the current examples. Serum institute’s Covishield was developed in collaboration with AstraZeneca of UK. Another vaccine in pipeline for large-scale Indian manufacturing, Sputnik V, comes from Russia. The Quad countries have pledged technical and financial support for India to work on vaccine from Johnson and Johnson.
Also, India itself depends on technology from other countries to accelerate the vaccine development processes. As Heiko Maas, Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs has written for the Indian Express today:
“Europe and the countries of the Indo-Pacific need each other also in the fight against the virus. We are committed to multilateral solutions. The EU is by far the biggest supporter of the international vaccine platform COVAX, and India as a leading producer of vaccines is the most important COVAX supplier. We will all benefit from this as, without the worldwide vaccination rollout, mutations will keep on setting us back in the fight against the pandemic.”
Thus, it is impractical for India to isolate itself in the name of vaccine nationalism.
India’s Vaccine Maitri has established India as a credible global supply chain in the post-covid world. The significance of this can’t be measured by wearing narrow-sighted political lens.
Delhi Govt’s Track Record of Corona Management
This also makes it imperative to examine the tall claims of the Delhi government. “If the age restriction for vaccination is removed and vaccine doses are provided in scale, all of Delhi’s population can be vaccinated in three months.”
Wishful thinking has no limits, but the track record of Delhi government in managing Covid-19 situation whenever a spike occurred belies their hype. You can read that account from our past article Centre and Amit Shah Come to Delhi’s Rescue, Yet Again.
To know why India can’t universalise Covid-19 vaccine at this stage, the explanation has come from Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, which you can read in our coverage Dispelling All Politics on Vaccination, PM Modi Explains Why It Can’t be Quickly Opened Up to Everyone