While the world was fighting the corona virus pandemic, two separate scenarios emerged. In countries like the USA and the UK, newly vaccinated people hug their loved ones after a long separation period. In India, miserable families count their dead. As the number of new cases in the country reaches new record levels every day, sick people are being sent back from hospitals whose beds and oxygen are running out. However, the more the virus spreads, the more likely it is to mutate and create variants that can eventually resist existing vaccines, threatening other countries to contain the pandemic, experts said. At the same time, the situation of India, one of the largest vaccine producers in the world, means that 92 poor countries, including South Africa and Brazil, could not be fully vaccinated for months or even years.
India broke a new record by reporting 379,459 cases and 3,647 deaths in the last 24 hours. India’s second deadly Covid-19 second wave devastated major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow and Pune. Hospitals and crematoriums run out of space and funerals are held in parking lots. However, the pandemic also affected many small cities, towns and villages where destruction was largely underreported.
However, the devastating epidemic in India poses a threat to the whole world. In the USA, Brown University School of Public Health Dean Dr. Ashish Jha said, “I am worried that if we do not help India, there will be an explosion of cases around the world. Therefore, the Covid outbreak in India is a global problem that requires a coordinated response.”
However, while the urgent priority in the country is to save the lives of those who are already sick, vaccination of the country’s population is of paramount importance to prevent the spread of the virus. However, despite being home to the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, India does not have enough doses and there is no faster and simpler way to vaccinate more people.
Western countries were criticized for stocking vaccines, but British Health Minister Matt Hancock claimed that Britain did not have much vaccine to send. US President Joe Biden confirmed that he met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and that the US plans to send the vaccine to India. Earlier in the week, the US said it would share 60 million AstraZeneca doses with other countries, but it has not been announced when this will happen and to which countries the vaccines will be shipped.
Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that it is very important to distribute corona virus vaccines fairly around the world: “Because we are all in this business. We live in a global world. Especially if you are a rich country and you have a lot of resources, you are responsible for other countries.”
However, experts warn that if the Indian epidemic cannot be contained and spreads to neighboring countries with low vaccine resources and poor health systems, the scenes witnessed in India will increase worldwide. Since India has a leading role in making vaccines for other countries, not stopping the spread of the virus there will jeopardize the spread of the vaccine worldwide.
Corona virus was first detected at the end of 2019 in Wuhan, China’s Hubei province, and has since spread from person to person around the world, mutating into new variants in some countries. In December last year, scientists discovered a new variant in India known as B.1.617, but it is unknown whether this caused the local epidemic due to a lack of genomic surveillance.
Anurag Agrawal, Director of the Indian Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, confirmed a correlation between the increasing prevalence of variants and the increase in Indian case numbers.
Agrawal said, “We saw an increase in cases caused by B.1.617 in Maharashtra. We see that such cases are also rising in the capital Delhi. These are very important epidemiological correlations.”
On the other hand, Agrawal stated that another variant known as B.1.1.7, originally identified in England and in the north of Delhi and India, is more dominant than B.1.617. It is known that the B.1.1.7 variant is 60 percent more transmissible than the original version of the virus.
Fauci said that the latest data showed that the Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin, produced in India, neutralized the B1.617 variant.
However, other variants, first detected by scientists in South Africa and Brazil, are believed to be more transmissible than the original virus, and these mutated viruses have already spread to more than ten countries. Vaccines from Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson Johnson showed varying degrees of effectiveness against these variants. However, since the corona virus is constantly mutating, there is no guarantee that existing vaccines will protect people from new variants.
The European Union’s Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) “Every country should deal with massive outbreaks out of control. Countries like the UK and the US are doing a great job of vaccination and they need to feel good about it, but it will only last until vaccines take effect on circulating variants.” made the announcement.
As of April 27, about 129 million people in the country have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the Indian Ministry of Health. This means that in India with a population of 1.3 billion, just over 8 percent of the people are vaccinated. Experts blame the government’s indifference for the slow pace of vaccination in India. Epidemiologist Brahmar Mukherjee said the country should administer 10 million doses per day to vaccinate all adults in the next five to six months.
On the other hand, besides the risk of new mutations, the second corona virus wave in India poses another problem for the world. Because the country is one of the key players in the global vaccine sharing initiative COVAX, which provides discounted or free doses to low-income countries. India has pledged to supply 92 poor 200 million doses of COVAX vaccine. But the country’s own rapidly deteriorating situation caused Delhi to shift its focus away from COVAX to prioritize Indian citizens.
The Serum Institute of India (SII) announced in March that it delivered 28 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to COVAX, but would send another 90 million doses in March and April. However, he warned that these deliveries would be delayed due to rising demand in India. India’s inadequacy on vaccines means other countries such as South Africa and Brazil should wait. So, the vaccination of the world is delayed for months, maybe years.
Before the coronavirus crisis in the country, India assumed the global leadership position to end the pandemic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi donated vaccines to other countries, including Guyana, Guatemala, Seychelles and Maldives earlier this year, as part of the COVAX initiative.
However, the Prime Minister’s generosity did not protect him from the anger of the people in the hometown for his alleged role in exacerbating the internal health crisis. Modi, for example, allowed a massive Hindu pilgrimage for weeks with millions of participants traveling across numerous states, and his political party held massive rallies for the upcoming elections in four states.
On the other hand, Modi has acknowledged the scale of the crisis and is trying to speed up the vaccination program across the country. The Serum Institute of India (SII) announced that states will charge less per dose to vaccinate more people.