Herald View: ‘India made’ vaccine fine, certificate not?

Government of India has only itself to blame for the international embarrassment it faces over its management of Covid vaccines and the vaccination certificates issued to Indians

Representative Image
Representative Image

NH Web Desk

Government of India has only itself to blame for the international embarrassment it faces over its management of Covid vaccines and the vaccination certificates issued to Indians. It has lost credibility internationally by hiding data, resorting to gimmicks and brazenly refusing to admit glitches associated with vaccination and the certificates issued. When officials, in an ill-advised move, manipulated the data on the Cowin platform to claim a dubious record on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday, they would have added to the prevailing suspicion. The Government has not cared to deny reports in the media which speak of vaccination certificates issued to the unvaccinated and even to the dead. The laconic response has been to gloss over such reports as stray cases. But no attempt was made to go deeper into the causes and explain why such glitches happened. Can we now blame the world for not taking our vaccination certificates at face value? The blissfully ignorant Prime Minister has added to the embarrassment by asking the international community to recognize certificates issued by India and other UN member states. The Prime Minister clearly knows that there is a problem with vaccination certificates but refuses to address it.

Instead, he seems to treat it as a diplomatic failure, racism and arrogance by Western countries and an unwarranted slight to India. In his address to the UN General Assembly, the Prime Minister also boasted of the record of 20 million vaccines administered on a single day (his birthday) in India. Both Indian and international media have noticed the inconsistent rate of vaccination before and after the landmark. Abnormally low vaccinations on days preceding the PM’s birthday and vaccinations tapering off on subsequent days have amused most experts and observers even as Government of India and the ruling party continue to puff and preen. If supply of vaccines and data entry can be held back and manipulated, the international community can scarcely be blamed for doubting the process.

The United Kingdom has been blunt to the point of rudeness despite the ‘personal chemistry’ shared by the British PM Boris Johnson with Prime Minister Modi. The High Commissioner of UK to India clearly stated this week that while UK has no issue with the vaccine Covishield manufactured in India, it does have an issue with the certificates issued by the Indian Government. The High Commissioner also disclosed that the two sides have discussed the ‘technical aspects’ and are looking for a solution. The chairman of the National Health Authority in India has acknowledged that technical level discussions have taken place. But there is nothing wrong with the Cowin app or portal, he reiterated. For how long can we afford to bury our heads in the sand? There are other issues related to the Indian Government’s mishandling of vaccination, which typically go unaddressed. There is no explanation why the other vaccine ‘made in India’, Covaxin, still awaits approval by the World Health Organisation.

Was it a mistake for the Indian Government to give emergency approval to it without assessing its efficacy? Is the vaccine really effective? And if not, who are to be held responsible? There is also no explanation why this unapproved vaccine costs a lot more in private hospitals, at almost twice the price of the ‘approved’ and possibly more effective Covishield? As the Prime Minister and his Foreign Secretary, both of whom had claimed to have been administered indigenously made Covaxin, travel without any hindrance because of the unapproved vaccine, other Indians must bide their time.

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Published: 24 Sep 2021, 3:00 PM