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India must aspire to be vaccine superpower


New Delhi: After a worldwide demonstration of India’s superpower status in IT software, now it appears that—as demonstrated in its founding of world class corporate hospitals, in its superior doctor-patient relations, and in its production of generic medicines and sensitive vaccines product—India is emerging as a superpower in medical technology.

Two institutions have recently caught international awe and attention to this emerging reality: Bharat Biotech Limited (BBL) and Serum Institute of India (SII). SII depends on the basic “raw” material of Oxford University and AstraZeneca (AZ) for producing anti coronavirus vaccines and is patronised by Bill Gates. BBL is entirely swadeshi in the production of this vaccine.

AZ was approved in the UK after a Phase III trial. However there are “warts” that may reduce the importance of this vaccine. We shall elaborate these below.

The wording of the Government of India approvals for BBL states that it has only “restricted emergency use authorization”. It could have been better worded by stating that this is through “a purchase option”. (This is what was done in the United States in the case of the Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, J&J and Novaavax vaccines).

The BBL vaccine, called Covaxin, is worth the risk since it is wholly Indian and fully accountable. The Ella couple who own BBL, both obtained their PhDs from a reputed US university. Thereafter they chose to return to the pell-mell of India, and faced and overcame an obstructionist bureaucracy which is more comfortable with mediocrity [I personally know what such a sacrifice for Bharat Mata means].

Hence to enhance India’s self reliance [aatmanirbharta] and India’s emerging superpower status (i.e. its emerging as a superpower in medical technology), the government must encourage BBL to succeed.

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