India will doubtless survive the travails of the coronavirus pandemic; but it may not be all on their own, as this has to be a case of ‘all-for-one, one for all’. The Indian administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have started out on the race to get ahead of the pandemic; but at the moment, it is doing everything it possibly can to make its people safe.
With a possible 2 billion-plus vaccine doses in the works from Serum Institute of India (950 million doses), Bharat Biotech (650 million doses), Biological E (300 million doses), Dr. Reddy’s (150 million doses), Zydus Cadila (50 million doses), and Gennova (60 million doses); India finally looks like a country that has now woken up to the realities of the Covid-19 pandemic.
With India’s vaccination train starting off the blocks in mid-January, the drive to get the population vaccinated saw the daily vaccination figures peaking at 3.6 million doses in early April. However, with an adult population of about 900 to 950 million based on the 2011 census figures for India, eligible for vaccination; India seems to have a mountain to climb in meeting its objective of having all its adult population vaccinated by the end of the year 2021.
And the Indian government is also looking beyond its local efforts as it is also in talks with global vaccine producers such as Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson for additional vaccine supplies to India in order for them to meet the target set for the end of the year.
But it seems like India will need more than just themselves to get through this already very costly pandemic with the vaccine program already hit by shortages; India will need more than just the vaccine doses to scale through this most trying time for the second most populated country in the world.
Aid from donor nations is going to prove very critical to India overcoming the devastating effect of the coronavirus that has seen the nation suffer nearly 400,000 Covid-19 deaths. Already, several countries including the US, UK, Russia, Germany, France, and UAE have sent aid such as ventilators, oxygen and related equipment, medicines, and ICU equipment. Australia has also made commitments to send ventilators, surgical masks, and other personal protective equipment, with the United States stating that it will also provide additional aid in vaccines and critical drugs.
While there isn’t any doubt that India will need more of such aids; it also needs to do a critical analysis of the coronavirus situation in the country to determine the areas where the aids are most required and useful so as to make the best use of the incoming aids. Such evaluation should include a critical assessment of the nation’s healthcare capacities such as the testing capacities and how they are distributed across the country.
In addition to all those measures; a proper assessment of the strengths of the private and NGO sectors and how they can be harnessed has to be taken into consideration too. They must determine where exactly in the country are the most vulnerable, and how best they can be reached. Reviews like the ones mentioned above would help in making sure that critical and sophisticated machines such as ventilators are not deployed to areas where they cannot be used properly or maintained.
In view of the ensuing shortage of vaccines; it appears that vaccines will, in the long run, become the most crucial gift. For some countries, they have booked more than they need in vaccines and such excess vaccine doses can be given to India, as the country will need millions of such imported doses of vaccine if it is going to fully vaccinate its population and rapidly too.
But beyond the country’s need in an emergency and critical care, such as oxygen and ventilators; there is also the need for technical expertise in epidemiology, biostatistics, data sciences, modeling, and diagnostic technology to help the country deploy the aids it would receive in the most critically effective ways.
What will also prove to be critical to India’s fight against the virus would be the readiness of the international community to share knowledge and collaboration in research areas such as understanding mutations via gene sequencing, identification of variants of concern, and studying their virulence and transmission process will also prove to be of great value.
But for this process to be of any good; the countries offering the support should realize that this would not be the right time to place any conditions on aid donation or delaying the process. Urgent help is needed as the height of the current wave seems to be only a few weeks away.
At this time, foreign aid should have the objective of strengthening India’s health system and not be a burden on it. All donor countries should remember that only if we are in it together, can we all hope to defeat the virus. Therefore saving India will be saving us all!
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