PM Modi on Monday had announced that India would revert to a system of centralised procurement of vaccines against COVID-19 and slammed the politicisation of vaccination drive. In a blistering attack against the detractors, Modi hailed India’s vaccination drive and highlighted how India is at the forefront of manufacturing its own vaccines, a far cry from what it used to be years ago when it took decades for the foreign vaccines to come to India.
“If you look at the history of vaccinations in India, whether it was a vaccine for smallpox, hepatitis B or polio, you will see that India would have to wait for decades to procure vaccines from abroad. When vaccination programmes ended in other countries, it wouldn’t have even begun in our country. Imagine if India had not produced its own vaccines, what would have happened to a country as big as India?” PM Modi asked rhetorically while emphasising the achievement of developing ‘Made-in-India’ COVID-19 vaccines.
However, a day after PM Modi’s announcement, The Hindu came up with a lousy “fact check” to discredit the claims made by PM Modi in his speech on Monday evening. The article started with asserting that PM Modi’s views on vaccination history are “at odds with the facts”.
The claims made by The Hindu in its article was conclusively debunked by a Twitter handle, who goes by the handle @knowthenation. In a string of tweets, Know The Nation pointed out the glaring holes in The Hindu’s ‘fact-check’ article and how it was trying to claim that India did not lack vaccine access.
The ‘fact check’ by @the_hindu on PM’s remark on the history of vaccination in India ends up further exposing past governments’ failures.— Know The Nation (@knowthenation) June 8, 2021
If we check out the timeline for major vaccines introduced in the world & in India we’ll get all the ‘facts’ at one place!
Know The Nation shared an infographic to highlight when were the major vaccines introduced in India vis-a-vis the world. The vaccine for Rotavirus was made available in 1998 in the developed countries of the world, but in India, they were introduced in 2015, a staggering 17 years later. The difference in the accessibility of vaccine for Japanese Encephalitis is even more profound. The vaccine was invented in 1930 but India got it after 83 years, in 2013.
Similarly, the vaccine for Hepatitis B was available in the world in 1982 but in India, it came in 2002, an astounding 20 years later. The antidote for Polio was developed in 1955 but India could get access to it only in 1978. And as for tetanus, it was introduced in India in 1978, after 54 years of its invention in 1924.
The Hindu’s ‘fact-check’ ends up contradicting its own claim that India did not lack access to vaccines in the past
The article, authored by writer Jacob Koshy selectively cited excerpts from an article by Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, which was published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research(IJMR) in 2012 to conclude on its own that “India, even before Independence, was among the countries that indigenously manufactured vaccines almost years within they were discovered, historical records suggest.”
Quoting from Lahariya’s article, The Hindu cited the vaccination of a three-year-old Indian in 1802, a mere four years after English physician Edward Jenner published the result of his experiments on inoculating subjects with a cowpox virus, to claim that smallpox vaccines reached India much earlier and not decades later as alleged by PM Modi.
However, what The Hindu’s ‘fact-check’ inadvertently revealed is that it took over 170 years since the first vaccination of a three-year-old Indian in 1802 for India to achieve complete eradication from smallpox. Because it was only in 1975 that India declared the complete eradication of smallpox.
Additionally, the article published in The Hindu itself said that smallpox was eradicated in North America and Europe by 1953 itself, while in India this was achieved in 1975. The article made a spurious claim that India was self-sufficient in the production of smallpox vaccines when the Britishers left the country in 1947. If that was the case, then why did the governments ruling independent India take more than 3 decades to vaccinate the entire population against smallpox?
Small Pox was eradicated in North America & Europe by 1953.— Know The Nation (@knowthenation) June 8, 2021
Small Pox was eradicated in India in 1975!
The article itself recognizes that!
Polio vaccination started in India 19 years after its introduction in the US
Clearly, it appears that The Hindu had determined the conclusion first and then selectively used facts to reinforce it. Its agenda-driven ‘fact-checking’ becomes even starker when it talks about Oral Polio Vaccination. However, what it says in the body of the article only ends up contradicting its conclusion and buttressing PM Modi’s assertion.
“India was also the pioneer-leader in polio research — epidemiology, vaccine-prevention — and in the manufacture of both Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) and Injectable Polio Vaccine (IPV). India’s lead position was squandered in later years due to short-sighted policies and capricious decisions, a blot in our history of public health,” The Hindu article said while quoting T. Jacob John and M. Vipin Vashishta from the 2013 edition of the IJMR.
“The OPV was developed by 1960…The Pasteur Institute of India developed and produced, for the first time in India, an indigenous trivalent OPV in 1970. Manufacture of the IPV was discouraged in India primarily because there were worries that the seed virus, necessary for manufacture, could escape out of the lab. It was not until 2006 that IPV was licensed for manufacture in India,” the article published in The Hindu read.
Polio Drive – the article claims how the vaccine was available in the US in 1960, but India’s vaccination with OPV started in 1979— Know The Nation (@knowthenation) June 8, 2021
“IPV was not licensed for manufacturing in India till 2006”. Why?
Vaccines had to be imported. For years! Why?
Read : https://t.co/AfPgl4GF86
The article published in The Hindu says the polio vaccination was available in the United States in 1960, 19 years before its vaccination started in India. It also adds that for years India imported Polio vaccines from abroad since its IPV was not licenced for manufacturing in India till 2006. No wonder, India took more than 3 decades to eradicate polio. The polio vaccination was started in 1979 and India was polio-free only in 2012.
The Hindu conveniently omits ‘fact-checking’ of Hepatitis B vaccination
As for Hepatitis B, the US introduced it in its vaccination process in 1982. In India, it was added to the inoculation programme only after 20 years, in 2002. However, the Hindu article conveniently ignored to ‘fact-check’ Hepatitis B vaccinations in India.
The Hindu’s shoddy ‘fact-check’ only adds weight to the assertions made by PM Modi in his speech that vaccinating its population was not a priority for the past Indian governments. In fact, the content of the article published in The Hindu conclusively vindicates PM Modi and contradicts its own premise that India did not lack access to vaccines under previous governments. However, when the sole agenda is to disprove PM Modi, consistency in arguments and factual accuracy are the least things to be bothered about. All that one requires is to selectively quote scholars and their work from the past and use ‘fact check’ as a tool to discredit PM Modi.