By committing to export vaccines to the rest of the world, despite its massive internal requirements, Modi has once again demonstrated that his government has put global demand on par with domestic necessity.
This will be yet another occasion for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to illustrate the country’s character and resilience to the world, coupled with his unmatched statesmanship, as 300 million of its 1.35 billion citizens will receive the vaccination free of charge in the first six to eight months of this year.
Priority will be given to healthcare and frontline workers. The vaccines will be given to “those above 50 years of age and the under-50 population groups with co-morbidities, numbering around 2.7 million,” according to an official statement.
With the highest number of infections in the world, after the United States, India has gone ahead and developed two indigenous Covid-19 vaccines, while its infection rate crept up by 18,222 cases last week taking the overall total to 10.43 million cases. Overall, however, infection rates have decreased across a daily recorded peak of nearly 98,000 cases last September.
While fighting against the increasing infection rates the country has fought to stabilize a dipping economy and the efforts to bring business back on track have been magnified globally with the business community and investors who have certified that India is the worlds economic ‘hotspot’.
And through it all, Modi has once again broadcast his administration’s commitment to the global community stating that he would continue to export medicines including vaccines. “The world is not only waiting for India’s vaccines but keenly watching how India handles the world’s biggest vaccination program,” Modi said in an annual address to overseas Indians.
“Being the biggest pharmacy of the world, India had supplied medicines to the needy across the globe in the past and it is doing it today as well.” With this statement Modi put to rest reports that his government was planning to ban the export of vaccines in order to make sure that its domestic needs were first catered to. It is a classic statement of intent that India has always put the global interest on par with its own.
The will of Indian manufacturing and innovation, aided by the philosophy of Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliance), also ensured that it reversed the import of protective equipment kits, masks, ventilators and testing kits by exporting some of these products as well.
True to keeping with the practicality and vision shown by the prime minister the vaccine roll-out is not a random execution. More than 90,000 healthcare workers were asked to go through a pan-India drill to ensure that the programme goes off without any hitches. There are existing templates that the nation can cope with the daunting numbers given that it already operates the world’s largest infant and child immunization programme, which innoculates 55 million babies annually.
The country’s Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) is one of the largest public health programmes targeting close of 2.67 crore newborns and 2.9 crore pregnant women annually. It is also one of the most cost-effective public health interventions and largely responsible for reduction of vaccine preventable under-5 mortality rate.
But come January 16th the world will be watching India closely as it prepares for yet another stellar show of its character and spirit of enterprise. The rehearsals are over and it is time for the country to once again step into the global spotlight and showcase its sense of purpose.