At a time India is being hailed across the globe for stepping up to the save the world from the wrath of the Chinese pandemic by supplying affordable, easy to store vaccines, a concerted campaign has been initiated to discredit the country’s vaccine diplomacy. The left-liberal media and certain political leaders are now attempting to propagate misinformation about Indian-made vaccines in an attempt to embarrass the Modi government.
In a similar initiative on Tuesday, a section of the left-liberal media ecosystem, discredited politicians took to social media to claim that South Africa had asked the Serum Institute of India to take back 1 million vaccine doses it had supplied under a commercial deal. Earlier this month, South Africa had received 1 million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from the Serum Institute.
In a report published by Economic Times, it was claimed that South Africa wanted to return the one million COVID-19 vaccine doses it had received from Serum Institute of India. The report claimed that South Africa had decided to return the vaccine a week after the country said it would put on hold the use of AstraZeneca in its vaccination program after it showed reduced protection against the South African variant of the coronavirus.
Citing the ET report, several media establishments aggressively reported that South Africa intends to return the vaccine doses it has procured from India as it did not have efficacy against the South African strain of the Wuhanvirus.
The report had stated that South Africa had paused the rollout of Indian-made AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine doses after preliminary trial data showed they offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness from the country’s dominant COVID-19 variant.
The country was likely to administer Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines from Wednesday, the Reuters report said.
Similarly, the Indian ‘liberal’ media outlets, who often wait for an opportunity to discredit India’s achievements on the global stage, latched on to same claims to add that the vaccines Indian-made will be returned. The basis of such a report was to not only cause disrepute to India’s vaccine diplomacy initiatives but also create vaccine hesitancy back in the country.
The Hindu too reported with similar claims that Serum Institute of India has been asked take back the one million COVID-19 vaccine doses the company had sent in early February.
The far-left propaganda website ‘The Wire’, which has a history of peddling lies against the country, put out a similar report saying that Indian vaccines would be sent back.
Strangely, BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy, who seems to have a complicated relationship with facts lately, also fell for the same misinformation.
Unsurprisingly, Pakistan was also there to celebrate India’s supposed ‘failure’ of the vaccine programme. Citing a Forbes report, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the ruling party in the terror-state ‘hoped’ that India did not put World at risk by supplying such vaccines. Spectacularly ignoring the reality that the desperately poor Islamic country has no means to vaccinate its own people and is waiting for the same SII-manufactured vaccines delivered to them through UN’s help so they can start vaccination in their country.
Ironically, Pakistan is desperately waiting for the same vaccines made Serum Institute of India to be delivered to them for free, as a gesture of help to poor nations from UN and GAVI. Pakistan will get around 17 million doses of SII’s vaccine for its people under the UN’s COVAX program.
Did South Africa ask the Serum Institute to take back the vaccines?
Responding to media reports that claimed that SII had been asked to take back its vaccine, the South African government has refuted media reports categorically saying that no such proposals have been made to the SII.
It is important to note that South Africa had paused the rollout of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine doses this month after one of the trials had shown the SII vaccine offered lesser protection against the South African COVID-19 variant. Following that, the South African government had agreed to purchase a vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.
As South African government procured J&J vaccine, it decided to share the excess vaccines from India with the African countries via the African Union (AU).
Speaking in the parliament, South Africa’s Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said, “I would like to clarify a few media reports that said we had returned the vaccines to India. We have not returned the AstraZeneca vaccines to India”.
Mkhize added the AstraZeneca doses that were purchased are now offered to the African Union platform, of which the SA is also part. He added that the AU would distribute to those countries who have already expressed interest in acquiring the stock.
He also stated, “I also wish to put it on record once again that the vaccines have not expired and that the expiry date of April was established through our quality control processes – a wrong impression was created that the vaccines have expired – this is simply not true”.
Earlier, there was a similar concerted campaign by left-wing trolls and Congress party workers against the Indian-made AstraZeneca vaccines, who had resorted to fear-mongering by questioning the ‘safety’ and ‘expiry’ of the vaccines. The habitual sceptics and anti-India propagandists had attempted to put out misleading narratives to undermine the country’s majestic achievement.