India is now swinging between hope and hopelessness. As the Covid-19 scenario remains grim, the nation is observing a Tika Utsav, an intensified vaccination programme for four days from Sunday. This is based on discussions PM Modi had with state chief ministers. The Covid-linked daily death toll is nearly 1,000 a day. At the same time, India is hogging some positive limelight for the way its pharma firms are meeting domestic requirements and also extending a helping hand to several nations in terms of supply of anti-Covid vaccines and special drugs for treatment of the infected people. This is the silver lining for India in an otherwise cloud-filled horizon.

While Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has a point in asking the government to halt vaccine export, India would do well to adopt a balanced approach.  A good image that India’s pharmaceutical industry has created in these trying times will have a lasting impact and help further raise the nation’s status as a pharma giant. While it’s easy to earn a bad name, it’s difficult to build a good image.

India, as per latest data from the Union Health Ministry, has over 11 lakh active Covid cases. Over 1,50,000 fresh cases are reported a day in a progressive rise. Capital Delhi is recording over 10,000 cases a day. India will have five more Covid-19 vaccines, over and above two vaccine brands that it has produced and distributed locally as also exported – Covaxin and Covishield. One of the five locally developed is an intranasal vaccine. The government is not rushing through requests for Emergency Use Authorization, rightly so, by stressing that safety and efficacy are important. Russia’s Sputnik V is closer to the grant of EUA here. The vaccines developed by China, as its state authorities admitted, were less effective compared to what India has rolled out.

While India has administered the vaccine so far to some 10 crore people of the upper-age brackets, China has given jabs to 16 crore people and the US 18 crore. Considering the population bulge, both India and China are somewhat on par while the US has covered more in terms of percentage of population. India has temporarily banned export of Remdesivir, an anti-viral drug used in Covid-infected patients with serious health complications. Some seven Indian pharmaceutical firms are producing this drug in collaboration with a US firm, of the order of nearly 40 lakh units a month. This is another credit for our pharma firms. They have turned adversity to advantage for themselves and for the nation too.

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