Congratulations to our Prime Minister Narendra Modiji and his team, our scientists and researchers, our entrepreneurs, our doctors and paramedical staff, and thousands of other involved in logistics for this humanitarian work. At a time when the whole world is still reeling with the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic India has sent 56,00,000 COVID-19 vaccines as gifts to many foreign countries. Another 100,00,000 were sent as commercial supply. This move has filled our hearts with pride as these vaccines are indeed precious.
Let’s put things in perspective about the ravaging Coronavirus Pandemic. 219 countries in the world are still coming to terms with this pandemic. They have all suffered in varying degree. As of date over 120 million people have been affected by this all over the world. While over 95 million have recovered, please spare a thought for the 2.6 million who lost their lives. I am sure you too would have lost friends and relatives as I have.
Most people of my generation living in post- Independence India – from the 1950s to the 70’s were pretty much used to our country – and us her people- being donees rather than donors!! At a national level, from time to time, we were dependent on the generosity of other countries to help us out of crisis. Just after Partition in 1947, we saw the rapid spread of malaria which affected some 75 million people resulting in 800,000 deaths. The Canadian Red Cross rushed 92 cases of precious penicillin to India. Today, nearly 75 years later, the Indian Government has agreed to send 500,000 doses of COVID 19 vaccine to Canada based on that country’s request.
India has become the powerhouse of vaccine manufacture. As much as a whopping 60 % of the world’s vaccines are manufactured in India. As of now, two vaccines have been approved by the Government of India for emergency use in the country. The first was Covishield, developed by Oxford- AstaZeneca in the UK, manufactured by the Pune based Serum Institute of India. They say they can make 60-70 million doses a month. The second vaccine has been indigenously developed in india and is called Covaxin. This is manufactured by Bharat Biotech of Hyderabad which plans to make 200 million doses per annum. Some weeks ago our External Affairs Minister Dr S Jayashankar said India had supplied vaccines to 15 countries and at least another 25 were in the queue.
It is indeed creditable that India is offering the vaccines to other countries when we ourselves have a huge challenge at hand. To vaccinate the second largest population in the world! India has started what is probably the biggest and most complex vaccination program undertaken anywhere in the world. The Prime Minister had said that our goal was to vaccinate 300 million people by the end of July 2021. In itself a large number but still a little less than one third of our total population!!
In the first phase, front line medical workers were vaccinated. In the second phase, the aim is to vaccinate elders (those above 60 years of age) as well as those who are 45 and above but have one or the other of an identified list of co-morbidities. As of date, an estimated 28 million have been vaccinated in India. We are vaccinating about 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 people per day as of now.
It feels good to see how we have grown as a nation, to the extent that we are considered an important part of the global fight against the COVID 19 pandemic. Even as I key in this post, I read that the United States have agreed to fund the production of 1 billion vaccines by the end of 2022 by an Indian Pharma firm- Biological E.
I would like to finish where I started. I am sure my parents – and some of us much later for that matter – would never have imagined a day would come when India would become in the world of medicine- a donor rather than a donee! Jai Hind!!