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Vaccine Diplomacy – India and the World

Vaccine Diplomacy

The world has been hit badly by the Covid 19 pandemic. Even the most powerful and economically strong countries like USA and UK couldn’t withstand the dreadful effects of Coronavirus. The US has been the most hardly hit country by this pandemic. Even Italy which has the second-best healthcare system in the world couldn’t save itself from the loss of lives during the first wave.

Many of the countries started developing their vaccines. Russia was the first country that created a vaccine named Sputnik V. This vaccine is said to be 90 percent effective in giving protection against the virus. Indian firms like Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India also produced vaccines namely Covaxin and Covishield respectively, which are considered very effective after two jabs.

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US-based companies like Pfizer and Jonhnson&Johnson also invented their vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine is priced at around 37 dollars.

The best thing about Indian vaccines is the price at which they are made available to the public. These vaccines are priced at around 200-500 INR.

India during the first wave of this pandemic emerged as a savior even for the economically strong countries It exported the anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine on a large scale to the US and the UK.

India after producing a large number of vaccines also distributed them to other countries. Around 66 million doses of vaccine were exported to 95 countries. Out of these 66 million doses, 10 million were sent as a grant to other countries on humanitarian grounds, 26 million were sent under the global Covax facility for the vaccine. The remaining 30 million were sent as commercial export.

India has always stood up as a humane state during any situation of crisis but on the other hand, the Indian Government has received lots of criticism on its move of exporting vaccines under the Vaccine Maitri program.

The Vaccine Maitri program which the government thought to be an effort of service towards humanity didn’t come out to be very popular among the public, the leaders, the local media, and the opposition.

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Reasons behind criticism of the Vaccine Maitri Program

  • The first and foremost reason is the shortage of vaccine supplies for the Indian public. Indian government sent 10 million doses on humanitarian grounds and around 30 million doses for commercial purpose. There has been a dissent in the public because the second wave hit the country badly with around 4.5 Lakh cases reported daily.  The public criticized the government for not supporting the local demands and instead exporting the vaccine.
Vaccine Shortage
  • The exports caused a shortage of vaccines in the country and now the government has opened up the import of vaccines produced by other countries which are relatively costlier than the Covid vaccines that are produced locally.
  • The US government recently used Defense Production Act to bar the export of essential goods and raw materials for the production of vaccines in India. The Indian think tanks and the public criticized the intent of the Indian government for not using any such powers to stop the export of essential goods to other countries.
  • Another argument that has come up, is that the Vaccine Maitri program was started at the same time of the commencement of vaccination drive for the local public and the government could not anticipate the second wave coming.
  • Premature celebration citing the victory over the pandemic is also cited to be a reason for the government’s criticism by the local masses.

Despite large-scale criticism of the vaccine diplomacy by the public, there are some merits that are associated with the Vaccine Maitri Program.

  • Recently, in India – European Union Summit the humanitarian efforts of India were appreciated by the member countries EU and their heads. This can boost economic partnership with the members of the European Union. Also, the members of the EU extended assistance to India for fighting the pandemic.
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  • During the recent series of events like the countrywide shortage of oxygen, India received cryogenic oxygen tankers as aid from many countries like Saudi Arabia, Israel, and other countries. We also received oxygen concentrators from Singapore. It can be seen as the direct effect of the Vaccine Maitri program.
  • India’s vaccines are relatively way cheaper than the vaccines produced by American Pharma giants like Pfizer and Johnson&Johnson. Sending cheap vaccines to poor countries can create a ground for good support and strong lobby in the international forums like United Nations.
  • The export of vaccines on commercial grounds saved the already weakening economy from further crashing down.
  • India emerged out as a soft power in the world during the pandemic. India is the most favored country in terms of the potential to become a regional and a global superpower. While the current superpower, the US has been hoarding the vaccines and other richer countries buying more vaccines than they need, India emerged out as a country that still keeps humanity above all the factors.
  • Vaccine diplomacy can prove to be a magnet for other countries to invest their money in India and thus strengthening the economy
  • India became the leader in the fight against the pandemic as many countries could start vaccinating their health workers because of the vaccines provided by India to United Nations.

The actions taken by the governments should be far-sighted i.e. the short-term benefits must be ignored and it should be a long-term goal of the governments to strengthen the country and empower itself to fight adversaries in the future.

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