India’s middle-class and the elites are exuberantly jubilant that there will be a COVID-19 vaccination in 2021, a year after it became a global pandemic. Indian Health and Family Welfare Minister Harsh Vardhan told the press that 30m “frontline workers”—including 10m healthcare workers—are going to get the first dosage of COVID-19 vaccination. The government is also planning to vaccinate an additional 270m people belonging to its “priority groups” free of cost in the first phase of COVID-19 vaccination in 2021, which will be completed in six months. So far, according to the press, only this phase will have vaccination drive covered by the government. It’s not known whether the rest of the aspirational people will be vaccinated free of cost or they will have to shell-out money.
But there have been a lot of apprehensions over the COVID-19 vaccination in 2021, which is raised by many scientists, doctors and even politicians. Lately, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav has questioned the vaccination drive. However, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), Dr VG Somani, jumped in the fray to claim that the COVID-19 vaccine planned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is “110% safe”. This proactive batting for the vaccines raised eyebrows as science doesn’t approve any claim beyond 99%. The DCGI has approved “restricted use” of vaccines developed by Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech in the meantime.
The vaccine developed by the Serum Institute is a part of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca “Covishield” vaccine programme, while Bharat Biotech is developing the “Covaxin”. The Serum Institute’s vaccine has been found to have 70.42% efficacy, there is no data available for the Covaxin as Bharat Biotech’s trial is underway. Out of 25,800 volunteers, Bharat Biotech has administered the first dosage to at least 22,500 participants. The results are yet to be analysed. Still, the DCGI’s permission to these two, with a “restrictive use” clause, which is quite obfuscated in case of a vaccine that’s only given to prevent a disease rather than treating, rings a vexing alarm for all.
Whether the COVID-19 is a dangerous disease that would need a vaccine programme rolled out without adequate trials is a question asked by many. But apart from this, what evokes a bigger doubt is the proactiveness of the Modi regime in implementing a mass vaccination programme, targeting the initial 300m. Leave alone the fact that the Modi regime, violating the privacy rights of the people, has selected the “priority groups” based on health records linked with Aadhaar—exhibiting how dangerous the biometric, all-in-one resident identity proof is—for the vaccination, the fact that the very government that has wiped-off any traces of subsidies and public welfare measures, is now going to spend Rs 100 billion for the first phase of COVID-19 vaccination in 2021, evokes high suspicion behind the motive.
Be it the DCGI’s highly enthusiastic “110% safe” certification for the very vaccines that neither have 100% efficacy rate nor have completed the mandatory trial phases, forget the reactions that may take time to occur in the long-run, or Modi’s warning against “rumours” about vaccines, an atmosphere is created by the government, promoted by the corporate-owned mainstream press, to cajole the paranoid middle-class and the elites to the realm of surreal protection from COVID-19 through the vaccine. Rather than questioning the government’s motives and the unholy nexus between big, notorious pharma companies and the governments of different countries in this vaccination drive, the uncritical and mediocre middle-class and the elites aren’t merely popularising the vaccine within their social periphery, but also influencing the poor and the downtrodden masses to make them lower their guard against the obnoxious agenda of big corporate capital.
For these politically-crucial classes in India and world over, who form the core driving force of the neo-liberal, consumerist economy, the year 2021 epitomises vaccination and freedom from COVID-19 infection. Their fear and insecurities are capitalised by the world’s major pharma companies, whose stocks are rallying due to immense speculative investment by big monopoly-finance capital, which has been seeking a “bubble” for long. The people of India aren’t guinea pigs and using them for untested vaccines to enrich big pharma companies is a heinous conspiracy in which the Modi regime is a partner. Not just in India, now that the COVID-19 vaccination in 2021 is supported and hyped by all quarters of the world’s ruling classes, it must trigger an eerie alarm for the progressive, democratic and anti-fascist forces globally and they must collectively resist this obnoxious mission.