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The pandemic politics

People are being vaccinated against the Covid 19 virus  in some parts of the world. More in some countries while less in some others. While there is a resurgence of cases in India, things are getting better in the UK and the US. Most of the people are vaccinated in the UAE and Israel, not much data is forthcoming from closed countries like China and Russia. Different countries have adopted different policies as the political narrative differs as well.

India has embarked on a massive vaccination campaign on a war footing. While the 63 million people who got at least one dose seems a big number, as an overall percentage of the population is in single digits. The US has vaccinated 101 million people with at least one dose, it is a significant percentage of the population. As a result, the cases are more in control in the US. The UK has vaccinated about 31 million people with at least one dose, the percentage of the population is approaching 50. While the rest of Europe and Russia are not very significant in terms of the population vaccinated.

In almost all the countries, there is chaos in vaccine administration. It can be expected that there will be a mad rush and the governments are trying to prioritize certain segments of the population. Ineligible people gaming the system to rush ahead of the line is happening all over. And governments cannot be blamed for the logistics in the midst of shortages.

In India, the home of the world’s largest vaccine makers, AstraZeneca and Bharat Biotech vaccines are being manufactured in bulk and being administered as well. A few months back there was vaccine diplomacy in terms of giving away vaccines to other countries, in competition with China, which was trying to win over other countries as well. As the cases surged, PM Modi turned vaccine diplomacy into vaccine nationalism by restricting exports of the vaccines. It is going to take till the end of the year 2021 for a big chunk of the Indian population to be vaccinated because of the sheer numbers.  Regardless, I observed that there were too many people in the cricket stadium in the series against England, most of them without masks. As the cases surged, the series continued in empty stadiums. This kind of behavior is certain to increase the cases as the vaccination is still in its infancy.

In the US, after the Trump disaster in controlling the cases, President Biden has been in a hurry to get all the people vaccinated so that the economy can be restarted soon. There was only vaccine nationalism with 3 vaccines approved (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson) and manufactured locally. In fact, Biden got Merck, which is a competitor but has no vaccine of its own, to manufacture Johnson’s vaccine by invoking the defense production act which is used to help in cases of emergencies like war. As a result, vaccine shortage is likely to turn into a surplus in a few weeks.

To Trump’s credit, while he made a big chunk of the population to ignore the covid virus and asked them not to wear a mask, behind the scenes, he was negotiating bulk contracts for vaccine development and manufacture. In fact, he funded the development of the Moderna vaccine. He was desperately hoping for a vaccine approval before the November 2020 elections. When Pfizer results were getting delayed, he lashed out at Pfizer’s Chief.

While the US has 3 approved vaccines, it has been dilly dallying against approving the AstraZeneca vaccine. My 2 cents here, without any evidence, is that it is economics at play. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines cost several times that of AstraZeneca one. AstraZeneca promised never to profit from a pandemic. Even after the pandemic, they want to give vaccines at cost to the poor countries. Also, AstraZeneca is a European vaccine in comparison.

Other European countries (other than the UK) dithered for a couple of months before coming to their senses. Initially they were negotiating the price for the vaccine. You don’t haggle with a cab driver when you want to take a patient to a hospital ! Then the supposed issue with some patients developing blood clots after vaccinating with AstraZeneca vaccine. Eventually there was no cause found and the vaccinations resumed. I think that the success of the UK is due to the National Health Service (NHS) which is a single national organization co-ordinating the vaccine administration. Such government run healthcare systems are an anathema to the Americans !

Russia was the first country to approve a vaccination in 2020. Yet their manufacturing seems to have stumbled. They are asking manufacturers in India and South Korea to make their vaccine and send it to them. China continues to stonewall the rest of the world as to the origins of the virus. Recent WHO (World Health Organization) team had come back with almost no access to either the Wuhan institute of virology or the Chinese wet markets of live animals.

Let us hope for the best in the coming months of the year.

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Prasad Ganti

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Navneet Bakshi
1 month ago

It is indeed sad that we humans thrive over other peoples’ misery. The plunder, loot, taking away the wealth and women of the subjugated ones, enslaving people, ruling over them and robbing them- these have been the cruder methods that were employed by one clan or a nation over the other until last century. Now the wars have become expensive, but the war games have become sophisticated 🙂 Every method employed in this game is just, so we shouldn’t be surprised to see what is happening at this thus far unexplored “Pandemic” front. I am still afraid of the fall-out of this god-sent malady because diabolic minds all across the world I am sure must be working to employ this weapon for supremacy in place of working on intercontinental missiles and safety webs.

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