Monday, Jan 25, 2021 07:00 [IST]
Last Update: Monday, Jan 25, 2021 01:29 [IST]
On Saturday the number of Indians inoculated with the first dose of coronavirus vaccine crossed 15 lakh, with 3,47,058 vaccinated within the last 24 hours.
And while the government is ensuring that the crucial antidote to the Covid-19 infection reaches all Indians, sooner or later, the country is also actively engaging itself in what is now being called “vaccine diplomacy.”
India has been receiving praise and words of gratitude from world leaders for supplying coronavirus vaccines to other countries, despite having a large population to cater to at home. Except Pakistan, which has opted for China’s Sinovac vaccine, India’s “supplies under grant assistance” are being shipped to all neighbouring countries including Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, and Seychelles. India has also contracted to sell Covishield, the vaccine developed by Oxford-Astra Xeneca and manufactured by Serum Institute of India, to Brazil, Morocco, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia, with flights carrying the precious cargo taking off to these countries last Friday. Exports to more nations are to follow.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his continued support to the global Covid-19 response, saying acting together, including sharing of knowledge, will help in combating the novel coronavirus. Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro also thanked India after his country received a consignment of 20 lakh doses of Covid-19 vaccines. Tweeting an image of Hindu god Hanuman carrying a mountain of coronavirus vaccine to Brazil, Bolsonaro thanked India for helping his country with the jabs. Terming India a "true friend" which is using its pharmaceutical sector to help the global community, the US has applauded New Delhi for gifting COVID-19 vaccines to several countries.
Prime Minister Modi has said India's vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used for the benefit of all humanity to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Last week, he had said that India was ready to do everything possible for a healthy planet.
Surely, India giving away millions of coronavirus vaccine doses can be seen as a tool of diplomacy. The shipments reflect one of India's unique strengths: It is home to a robust vaccine industry, including Serum Institute of India, one of the world's largest vaccine makers. India has become the preferred partner for vaccine sales partly because reports on rival China’s vaccine candidates are unclear, according to medical experts, and partly since prices at between $3-5 a dose are among the lowest globally. It is also easier to store and distribute compared to Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines that are being extensively used in the US. Meant to rival China’s offerings, India’s ‘gifts’ and paid for vaccines have not only helped India sell its soft power but also push its stature as the “pharmacy of the world” throughout the world.
Vaccines are the single most powerful health interventions developed by modern medicine. Universal, equitable, and affordable supply of vaccines for low- and middle-income countries are needed more than ever. In past epidemics, such as the H1N1 influenza, many developing countries were on the outside looking in when it came to access. India is now on the inside, and it can play a crucial role in health and safety in an increasingly interdependent world.