Author and columnist Chetan Bhagat on Wednesday took to Twitter to pat himself on the back for India’s phenomenal numbers in Covid vaccination.
Glad vaccination pace picked up now. Happy to have contributed to bring attention to slow vaccination back in April and May. My column from then here, making the case for increasing pace 5-10x, which we have finally achieved now. #StaySafe https://t.co/cX28l8x9MT— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) September 1, 2021
He plugged his blog link from May 2021 where he had questioned India’s vaccination programme. In fact, he had claimed that when rest of the world was busy developing and procuring vaccines in April-June 2020 as the pandemic spread, India was busy discussing the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. He claimed that in September, everyone was obsessed with Bollywood actors smoking weed.
Nowhere does he mention how the Indian government was working on war footing to set up healthcare infrastructure for a country with over 130 crore people and working on developing a homegrown coronavirus vaccine as well. Because if vaccines were made available in January 2021 for healthcare workers and eventually for all, things didn’t really materialise overnight.
On 31st August, 2021, India has administered one dose to at least 64 crore people. In fact, on Tuesday, India perhaps set a world record by inoculating 1,28,68,559 doses. That is vaccinating entire population of New Zealand twice over and more. In one single day.
That Bhagat would choose to take little bit of credit for the vaccination amused netizens to no end.
Many pointed out how it was inappropriate to gloat over an article that was more like rooting for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines while dismissing Indian government efforts on vaccination.
It's wrong to gloat over something which was in process of happening. Govts have many individuals&group of administrators who do their job meticulously. There is no point in putting pressure on them just because we are anxious. India has always been sincere on vaccination front.— Raju (@nbrengaraju) September 1, 2021
What is amusing is that back when Bhagat has been regularly rooting for Pfizer vaccines. He has been trying to put pressure through his tweets for Indian government to approve Pfizer. Here are some of his tweets:
The Pfizer vaccine, one of the best ones, used in most developed countries, applied for permission in India in Dec-2020. India instead asked them to do more studies here. Pfizer withdrew its application in Feb-21. Imagine lives saved if we allowed the vaccine from December itself— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) April 28, 2021
Bhagat was upset that Indian government did not give emergency approval for Pfizer in December itself. The American pharmaceutical giant has been in talks with the government over vaccine approval in India. However, it wanted significant regulatory relaxations, including indemnification or protection from compensation claims in case of adverse events.
Indian government has not given regulatory relaxations to any companies so far. Despite Pfizer’s reluctance to take responsibility for the possible adverse effects of its own vaccine, Bhagat, amongst various other influential people like Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, have been rooting for Pfizer.
Pfizer and Moderna are the best vaccines. They have been out since Dec-2020. Why don't we have them in India yet? Do we not deserve the best? Don't we buy defense equipment from abroad? Is this not a war like situation? Why does the vaccine have to be made here and only here?— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) April 28, 2021
Here is more of his defence for Pfizer.
Oh but why couldn't Pfizer agree to our terms, some say.— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) April 28, 2021
Well, we needed Pfizer's vaccine more than they needed us. We could have saved lives if we kept our ego down and said 'how can we make it work Pfizer' rather than 'why can't you listen to us.'
Lives could have been saved.
His argument was we (India) needs Pfizer more than it needs us. But with the ramped up vaccination, this argument doesn’t quite hold water.
What is more amusing here is that soon after his April tweets on Pfizer, he wrote the blog in Times of India about vaccination, which he is plugging now to pat himself on the back.
Here is a small discussion he held with his buddies mocking India’s vaccination programme.
I have a solution endorsed by the great nationalist @TVMohandasPai. Let’s blame the foreign media for the snail-like pace of India’s vaccination program.— Sadanand Dhume (@dhume) May 10, 2021
Columnist Sadanand Dhume and troll masquerading as columnist Rupa Subramanya too joined him to mock the comparatively slow pace of vaccination back in May 2021.
How about the Mughals? pic.twitter.com/uYj5wL4Iui— Rupa Subramanya (@rupasubramanya) May 10, 2021
And some more sarcasm.
Shameful of you guys to leave out Tipu Sultan. Everyone knows how he stopped the government from ordering enough globally approved vaccines on time.— Sadanand Dhume (@dhume) May 10, 2021
On 1st May, India had opened vaccination for all who are above the age of 18. With a population of 130 crore, clearly it was a huge task. At that time, state governments were in charge of procuring vaccines. This was because state governments, especially non-BJP ruled ones, wanted their independence in managing the healthcare crisis. Some state governments thought they could do better without Central government’s involvement. Since health is a state subject, central government had relented.
However, by June when state governments struggled in procurement of vaccines and things started to go out of hand, Union Government came to the rescue making vaccines free and available for all from June 21 onward. Since then, the vaccination has been regularly ramped up.
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya had informed that India took 85 days for administering the first 10 crore vaccines, 45 to touch the 20 crore mark, 29 days to reach 30 crores, 24 days to reach 40 crores and 20 days to touch the 50-crore mark. It took only 19 days to reach the 60 crore mark. The reducing number of days to achieve the 10-crore vaccine dose milestone shows how India’s inoculation drive is on the right path to vaccinate its gargantuan population.
This ramping up of facilities was happening even without the wisdom imparted by Bhagat.