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Monday, April 22, 2024

Question Mark Over India’s Covid Toll

Were India’s vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, also rolled out at the “speed of science”? Were Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech under pressure to deliver, and deliver fast? Covid killed wantonly. It shouldn’t be allowed to make a clean getaway. On October 13, India reported 2,678 Covid-19 cases, out of which 10 were fatal. The cumulative caseload was 4,46,23,997 (26,583 active cases), and 5,28,857 dead. As regards vaccination, over 2.19 billion doses had been administered till October 14 out of the over 9.08 billion worldwide.

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Earlier this month, Janine Small, Pfizer’s president of international developed markets, stunned the world when she admitted to the European Parliament that Pfizer did not know if its Covid-19 vaccine had been tested for the prevention of the transmission of the virus at the time of its rollout. She said there was little time to waste, and Pfizer had to roll out a vaccine at the ‘speed of science’. The shocking admission stunned the European Members of Parliament even as the revelation put a question mark on all vaccines, including the ones which Indians took with utmost trust. Were Covishield and Covaxin tested for transmission when the Modi government decided it was time to start the world’s biggest vaccination drive, a brag which seemed to blind him to the rising tide of Covid deaths? Whether India’s vaccines were capable of stopping the transmission of the Covid-19 virus is still in the grey area. Nobody asked the question to the Modi government and the question never crossed the minds of India’s Members of Parliament. Modi’s health ministry couldn’t have cared less.

Building on the WHO conclusion, the BBC put out a report titled “Why India’s real Covid toll may never be known”. That unmarked question still holds. The WHO report put the total death count at over 47 lakh! The Government of India held the same at 4.8 lakh which the Modi government defended as bona fide and authentic. But, to date, Indians aren’t convinced. The funerals and shallow graves on the banks of the Ganges are vivid reminders of death by Covid. The government rejected both ex-gratia, and WHO death count and blamed the WHO’s methodology, calling it “statistically unsound and scientifically questionable”. But the WHO stuck to its guns and figures. The WHO released its estimate despite India’s vehement protests. And, now, we have Pfizer disclosing that its vaccines had been rolled out worldwide without testing whether it helped stop transmission of SARS-COV-2 or not. Would that knowledge have saved lives? It is a sobering thought. Too many people were sacrificed at the altar of governments panicking in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The Pfizer president for developed markets said her company couldn’t wait and had to act at the “speed of science”. The haste must have cost lives, tens of thousands of lives. Were India’s vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, also rolled out at the “speed of science”? Were Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech under pressure to deliver, and deliver fast? Covid killed wantonly. It shouldn’t be allowed to make a clean getaway. On October 13, India reported 2,678 Covid-19 cases, out of which 10 were fatal. The cumulative caseload was 4,46,23,997 (26,583 active cases), and 5,28,857 dead. As regards vaccination, over 2.19 billion doses had been administered till October 14 out of the over 9.08 billion worldwide. The implications of Janine Small’s big revelation still haven’t sunk in. The Government of India should come clean and India’s MPs should, like the EMPs, demand answers be given at the “speed of science”. All eyes are now on the Indian government, for many are starting to believe that Covishield & Covaxin might have followed a similar trajectory as that of Pfizer. But will Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech comment on the matter, will be an interesting thing to follow.

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The Hills Times
The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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