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  Asia-Pacific
UK's Decision to Consider Vaccinated Indians as 'Unvaccinated' Lacks Scientific Merit
By Bobby Ramakant
Asia Correspondent
A medic shows a vial of coronavirus vaccine.
Recent decision of the United Kingdom (UK) to consider fully vaccinated Indians along with some other nationalities as 'unvaccinated' lacks scientific merit and instead stinks of white supremacy and apartheid era. It is important to mention that 90% of the vaccines rolled out in India are Covishield. Covishield vaccine, is Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, whose research was done by UK based agencies but this vaccine under the name of 'Covishield' is being made in India and exported globally by Serum Institute of India. Serum Institute of India is also the world's largest vaccine manufacturer. Will UK also consider those vaccinated with Oxford AstraZeneca in its own nation as 'unvaccinated?'

UK announced recently it new rules where Indians will not be considered as vaccinated and have to undergo 10 days quarantine. Those who got vaccinated in other nations in South America or countries such as United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Jordan, Thailand, Russia etc will also be considered as 'unvaccinated' by the UK. Will the UK care to explain the scientific rationale of this rule?

"This rule of UK is not only bizarre, but also a scientific blunder and a setback to global diplomacy in this era of growing interdependence. Why suddenly vaccines like Covishield which are made in India (Covishield is Oxford AstraZeneca, whose research was done by UK based agencies) have suddenly become untouchable for the UK? Will UK consider its own citizens who have received this same vaccine (but not made in India) as 'unvaccinated'?" asked Shobha Shukla, a feminist and development justice activist who leads CNS.

Even before the Covid pandemic had hit us, India was a well-established global pharmacy for producing generic lifesaving medicines and vaccines for range of diseases worldwide and supplying them to most of the low and middle income nations. Even rich nations had supplies of Indian health supplies since years.

Then why are people who are fully vaccinated with vaccines that are duly approved by vaccine regulators and the World Health Organization (WHO) such as Covishield (Oxford AstraZeneca), be suddenly considered as 'unvaccinated?' Now, nine months after the vaccination began worldwide, UK’s decision to consider those vaccinated with Oxford AstraZeneca made in India (as Covishield) as 'unvaccinated' is such a mockery of science and global solidarity.

Noted infectious diseases expert Dr. Ishwar Gilada said that UK should stop this unscientific, irrational and absurd act creating third grade vaccine apartheid by treating Indians as bonded labourers, 75 years after independence. He also called upon the UK to stop stockpiling vaccines and donate to poorer nations where vaccination coverage is abysmally low.

Moreover, UK should look within and evaluate if it its own Covid response is guided by science and reason. For instance despite the WHO appeal to all nations for a global moratorium on third booster dose, the UK has disregarded it and went ahead with booster dose putting a large part of humanity on blindspot who are yet to receive their first dose of the vaccine.

UK cannot firewall itself from the Covid pandemic alone. Not only corona virus from Wuhan, China, had spread on every continent including Antarctica in a short span of time, but even the new Delta strain has spread to over 180 nations and wreaking havoc.

If UK wants a way out of the pandemic just like every other country, then it has to stand together with every other country in global solidarity, and move forward collectively as global humanity, fully vaccinate everyone in a time-bound manner worldwide, thereby reduce severity of illness drastically, curtail transmission of infection, and hope for a possible herd immunity to kick in leading us to the end of the pandemic era.

Covid pandemic is an important litmus test for human race to walk the talk on oft-quoted slogan of ‘no one left behind’. If we leave any nation behind in Covid vaccination, then we will be making everyone more vulnerable to new, possibly more virulent variants of the corona virus due to uncontrolled spread. Rich nations choosing to stockpile vaccines is not only a scientific and epidemiological blunder but also will fail every country worldwide in its earnest effort to end the pandemic. That is why the UK should be very worried about those nations or populations where vaccine coverage is abysmally low. This is also why UK and other rich nations should be more worried about unvaccinated populations worldwide than waning immunity cover of their fully vaccinated populations.

The data is not strong enough on booster dose yet but is emerging on waning immunity levels among some populations who have received particular vaccines. While we wait for stronger evidence to emerge on the need for third booster dose, we cannot afford to let the golden time slip away with appalling slow vaccination pace around the globe.

That is why the WHO has called for global moratorium on booster dose till end of this year so that at least 40% of the world’s population can be fully vaccinated by then. But despite the moratorium call from the WHO, countries like USA have given booster dose to over 1.3 million people and France and UK have also begun providing booster dose.

Let us hope that all scientifically approved vaccines by credible regulators and the WHO will be recognised by all sovereign nations worldwide. It is time for science to take centre stage and guide our responses to Covid.



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Bobby Ramakant, who serves as The Seoul Times' Asia correspondent, is a member of NATT, Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals, and edits Weekly MONiTOR series, reporting violations of tobacco control policies as a senior public health and development journalist. He writes for newspapers in 11 countries. He is the recepient of World Health Organization (WHO)'s Award for the year 2008. He can be reached at bobbyramakant@yahoo.com

 

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