A billion vaccine doses as base camp

India has administered 1 billion (100 crore) doses of Covid vaccines. This is a landmark moment. And while it is a moment to celebrate, it is also a moment for reflection. A moment to remember those we lost to the ravages of this disease, the tireless efforts of healthcare and front line workers to serve to the best of their ability when the light at the end of the tunnel was not even a glimmer. It is also a moment to celebrate and acknowledge the many more who worked tirelessly in the background. This moment must also be one to promise to do better.

But the war against Covid is far from over. The pace of vaccination in the country has improved, as has the supply. One critical reason why this has been possible is the manufacturing and vaccine development capacity that India can boast of. It is now time for India to put this capacity to the service of those countries, particularly in the global south, that lag behind in vaccinating their populations. India must step up manufacturing within, and set up units in, African nations, so that they, too, are armed with the basic protection against this dreadful and deceptive disease. This is India’s moment to show that it understands what it means to be a global leader. It also is a chance for India to demonstrate that global cooperation is critical to truly overcome the setbacks forced upon countries by this pandemic. Other global challenges such as climate change can build upon such cooperation. At home, governments at the Centre and the states must review their response and learn the right lessons. The delay in ordering vaccines, the states’ misconception that they would be better off securing vaccines on their own, administrative lapses at all levels – these have taken a toll, the least that should be done is to draw the right lessons to avoid repeat errors.

Delivering 1 billion vaccines shows capacity to deliver. This triumph must be extended to other areas, so that we can truly build back better. That would demonstrate that we have the ability and humility to learn and be better.


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