India Vaccine Diplomacy: Did it truly left an impact?

India | Vaccine Diplomacy | 27th June 2021 | Virtual Wire

The year 2020 was a grieving period for the global population, as the wave of devastation called the “Covid-19” virus engulfed the whole world in its grab.

There were various ramifications of such a colossal calamity like world trade was down, onsite operations in industries were shut down which resulted in a lot of employees being laid-off, people were undergoing treatments to fight the virus and the last and most horrific effect, people losing their loved ones.

Only one hope that was viewed as ‘the life-saving elixir’ were vaccines developed against the virus. India was one of the front runners in terms of producing and developing vaccines, when the Serum Institute of India, in collaboration with Oxford University and AstraZeneca, released one of the first vaccines called “Covishield.” The other counterpart being “Covaxin,” developed and manufactured by Bharat Biotech, which is was homegrown and manufactured in India.

The official vaccination, on the national level (pilot stage), was initiated on 6th January 2021; the Covishield being the first vaccine approved for use, followed by Covaxin and other vaccines (like the “Sputnik V,” developed by Gamaleya Research Institute [based in Russia] was also started to be distributed in partnership with Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories (RDL) in mid-June period of 2021) later on.

During the first stages of the vaccination pilot, many vaccines were distributed by the central government of India in various belts like African Nations (Ghana, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Egypt), Latin America (Brazil, Argentina), Europe (UK, France), and other countries, leading to a total number of 80 plus nations being or were supplied with 5.84 crore vaccine doses (around 50 million).

As the “vaccine diplomacy” was in the act, the second wave of Covid-19 hit India in the month of late April and it led to traverse and drastic conditions no one could have ever imagined. A total of 3.03 lakh people succumbed to the virus, out of which half deaths (approx. 1.5 lakh) took place in the second wave.

The election rallies for the West Bengal elections, Mahakumbh, relaxed restrictions on the commoners and crowds again gathering in the markets, etc. were called the “flint to the fire” activities which were considered seminal to the second wave of the virus.

In order to curb the spread, month-long lockdowns were again imposed in various states like Uttar Pradesh, M.P., Uttarakhand, and others. Vaccination drives were relatively fastened to vaccinate the population, which entailed mass consumption of the doses. Cowin-app and website were released by the government to ease the registration process for the approved demography.

Firstly, elder citizens (mainly above or at the age of 45) were targeted to get vaccinated, which were then later followed upon by the more-young demography (18-44) becoming eligible for the vaccine.

Vaccine distribution around the world, even though denied by the government, was one of the major reasons behind the shortages faced by the vaccination centres and states. States like Delhi, Maharashtra, and Kerala were continuously reporting the shortages of vaccines for the people and asking, in advance, for the vaccine to be delivered to them by the government.

Observing the direness of the situation, even the Supreme Court of India and state level High Courts (like Delhi) had to jump in and adjudicate the government on various fronts, especially on vaccine and oxygen supply.

Due to the limited numbers of vaccine, an international initiative of distributing vaccines among the other nations have been halted and all the doses are being concentrated towards the general population of India. This has led various nations like Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka (our neighbouring countries) to be left stranded in these times of travesty.

Nepal has even asked the global community, especially developed countries like the USA and the EU for helping it out by delivering their excess doses of vaccines. Nepal, in the time of need, had to nod on the decision to distribute the Chinaorigin vaccine “Sinovac” and vaccinate people with it.

Even Bangladesh, which one of the closest friends to India, had to turn its eyes away to the Chinese origin vaccines as the jabs promised to it were not delivered at the time by SII, as only a fraction of the total amount reached the muscles of Bangladesh.

SII did promise to bump up its vaccine production to 5 crores (50 million) to 6.5 crores dosed per month, like Bharat Biotech (from 90 lakh to 2 crore/900k to 2 million) and Sputnik V (30 lakhs to 1.2 crore/300k to 12 million) by July of this year.

But, the effects of increased production is to be seen, as still the vaccination drive on a national level persists and people with woken conscious getting themselves vaccinated.

India needs to rethink its strategy to cement itself as the “Big Brother” of the South Asian belt again, as it is already losing its grip as an astound member among its neighbours. With the People’s Republic of China leading the vaccine and international trade race, India needs to let go of its ego and reignite the relations it had, as without the support of the international community and surrounding neighbours, even becoming a superpower would not suffice being left alone on the global stage.

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