All hands on deck

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All hands on deck

Thursday, 01 April 2021 | Pioneer

All hands on deck

All countries must now stand together against the virus and not look expectantly only towards India

Coronavirus is the most formidable enemy that mankind has encountered in living memory. COVID-19 has ravaged the world as no calamity or war did in history. The World Health Organisation (WHO) officials have said that the ongoing pandemic has caused more “mass trauma” than World War II, besides warning of its lasting consequences. What makes it supersede all human efforts to contain it is not only its ability to spread fast but also to mutate — generating new lethal strains against which the current vaccines are rendered ineffective. These new strains are no less than the “weapons of mass destruction” and have left scientists confused. Moreover, the virus has proved that institutions like the WHO and governments across the world alone are not capable of dealing with every impending danger. A sub-microscopic infectious agent has proved its superiority over us and tackling it needs global concerted efforts. Realising it, the leaders of more than two dozen countries, the European Union and the WHO recently called for an international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response. The leaders outlined a treaty meant to provide universal and equitable access to vaccines, medicines and diagnostics. However, it cannot be denied that any such effort could be marred by the complacency on the part of some countries or their unwillingness to help others. For instance, when the COVID-19 first broke out, despite an obligation for nations to share critical epidemic data with the WHO, China declined to do so.

In our own backyard, with the surge in cases across States, we are clearly racing against time. India, which has supplied indigenously-made vaccines to several distressed nations and whose vaccination programme has been lauded around the globe, is now struggling to maintain its domestic vaccine supply. Several Asian countries sought alternative sources for COVID-19 inoculation after India’s export restrictions left a WHO-backed global vaccine-sharing programme short of supplies. Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said India would need to calibrate its external supplies keeping in mind its domestic needs as the rise in COVID-19 cases highlighted the urgency for an accelerated vaccination programme. India provided medical assistance, including essential drugs, test kits and protection gear, to over 150 countries as part of its efforts to extend global help in dealing with the pandemic. However, it’s hard to maintain global commitments at the cost of the health of our own citizens amid the latest spurt in COVID-19 cases. The need of the hour is that all countries should work together to create a secure, resilient and sustainable supply chain of vaccines. Any global commitment or resolve against the pandemic is incomplete without Indian participation. We have established our prowess through indigenous vaccines and now there is a need to amp production significantly, for which other nations should step forward and lend a helping hand. We need to think out of the box to defeat the pandemic.

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