The world and the country have staggered on since a ‘cluster of cases of pneumonia’ was reported in Wuhan of China’s Hubei province in late December of 2019. The infection which resembled MERS and SARS, but deadlier was declared a pandemic on March 11 2020 by the WHO. It was India’s turn to answer the uninvited viral guest’s knock on January 30 2020 in Kerala’s Trichur.
India was well aware that she was a potential powder keg to the viral ‘spark’. Thanks to her population of 1.3 billion and substantial numbers living in cramped conditions. A sure recipe for viral transmission. Soon the country’s worst fears were realized. By March 14 2020 SARS-CoV-2 scored a century of cases. Sensing trouble and need to act expeditiously the Prime Minister called for a Janata Curfew on March 22. Indians locked themselves up from 7 am to 9 pm on that day to checkmate the virus that had already claimed 4 in the country.
that a showdown between the virus and a population bursting at the seams would give easy walk over to the contagion through disease and death of calamitous proportions being certain, the Prime Minister chose to have citizens behind shuttered doors through a 21-day lockdown starting March 25 2020.Confirmed case count was 500 at that time. With Indian economy already on crutches, the lockdown had it crawling. Much to the chagrin of forces of commerce and finance, a second lockdown was announced on April 14. The virus couldn’t be given the long rope. Confirmed cases and deaths were mounting. Concomitantly effective treatment options were not forthcoming. Shouts for a vaccine fell on deaf ears. Not in India only but worldwide. Having come thus far, Indian viral figures stands at 7.91 infected and 119,000 succumbing. Leaving USA and Brazil far behind.
Series of lockdowns and their extensions followed with concurrence of hapless men and women in the white coat, who were left groping in the dark for effective treatment and a vaccine. The limping economy had to be nursed back to semblance of health. This wasn’t an exclusive Indian crisis. It was a global one. No nation was spared the battering. Some like New Zealand and South Korea somehow managed to wriggle themselves from the viral stranglehold quite early. Notably for the USA, Brazil, India and European Union there was no letting go! At the time of writing subsequent waves of viral infection and more severe re-infections are already being reported globally.
Nations took to unraveling a vaccine before all was lost. The timid vaccine refused to emerge from laboratory workbenches. Nations made tall but unconvincing claims of having ‘progressed well into vaccine trials’. They remained just tall claims. Probably the one looking most promising was the one being developed by the Oxford University and licensed to AstraZeneca. But recently the vaccine received a setback with death of one of the volunteers in Phase III human trials. Before the chicken could actually hatch from the egg, global politicians notably of the West resorted to ‘vaccine nationalism’ by hoarding a nonexistent entity by entering into pre-purchase agreements with potential vaccine manufacturers. This potentiated non-availability of the vaccine to deserving poorer nations. That a pandemic of COVID-19’s monstrosity couldn’t tame the self-serving politician out to reap rich dividends by conniving with potential vaccine manufacturers was nauseatingly and repulsively evident. India too indulged in ‘vaccine politics’ of a different kind though. Equally repulsive, grotesque, shameful and to a large extent inhuman. Elections in Bihar was round the bend. The BJP-led NDA had to win it come what may. The front decided to play to the gallery riding piggyback on the virus. India like the rest of the world had no vaccine which had run through mandated phases of Human trials. The nation’s best bet Covaxin being manufactured by Bharat Biotech has only just secured the Drugs Controller General of India’s nod for phase III clinical trials. The ribbon at the finishing point is still miles away. A vaccine in India remains an unborn fetus.
The NDA decided to use this unborn yet christened fetus to garner precious votes in Bihar. The Union Finance minister indulged in the unthinkable. She led the BJP’s ‘Bihar thrust’ by promising free vaccine for every citizen in Bihar if the NDA assumed power. The entire exercise seemed strange. Why did the Finance Minister make this bizarre and outlandish announcement?
Matters of the vaccine weren’t clearly her business. It was the Union Health Minister’s who played hide-and-seek. He probably allowed better sense prevail by not being a part of the cheating act. Bihar clearly was being taken for a ride. By promising Biharis a nonexistent entity as crucial as the COVID vaccine, they were being cheated. They were being made to look like fools before the entire nation. ‘Vaccine populism’ played out in poll-bound Bihar was adopted by Tamil Nadu too, with her chief Minister promising free vaccine. It wasn’t surprising for a state sold to freebies to fall for such gimmicks.
Now that elections in Bihar is already underway, one is curious to know what a BJP-led NDA if it assumes power in the state would administer for free as vaccine against the pandemic. Clearly gomuthr(cow urine)or concoction of cow dung cannot be administered as COVID vaccine! Though they were seen being distributed in different parts of India as immunoboosters against CIVID19. That the Corona virus has miserably failed to tame the typical power-avaricious politician is for all to see. Bihar is no animal lab, and Biharis are no guinea pigs to test the unborn vaccine.
Quote by Polish author monika Wisniewska, “the vaccine should be tested on politicians first. If they survive, the vaccine is safe. If they don’t, then the country is safe” comes to mind in this context!