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As India reached the 200 crore doses milestone, here is how politicians and the media had fuelled vaccine hesitancy and wild claims

Casting doubts over which the vaccines were approved, and by extension questioning the efficacy of the vaccines, The Wire published an article whose headline read: “India has gained two vaccines but its regulators have tarnished Indian Science”.

On Sunday (July 17), India’s Covid-19 vaccination coverage crossed an important milestone of the 200 crore mark. With this, India has become the second country after China to have administered over 2 billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to its population.

In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi remarked, “India creates history again! Congrats to all Indians on crossing the special figure of 200 crore vaccine doses.”

He further added, “Proud of those who contributed to making India’s vaccination drive unparalleled in scale and speed. This has strengthened the global fight against COVID-19.”

It must be mentioned that the historic feat was achieved despite a concerted effort by Opposition political parties and leftist media to derail the nationwide vaccination programme.

While some opposed the immunisation drive to turn around their political fortunes, others targetted the vaccine manufacturers in a bid to demoralise them. One of the strategies employed by them was discrediting the indigenous Covaxin vaccine, developed by Bharat Biotech.

The government approved its emergency use in the month of January 2021. Using this as the primary tool for propaganda, Congress leaders such as Shashi Tharoor, Manish Tewari, and Chhattisgarh health Minister TS Singh Deo trivialised the vaccination drive altogether.

This is despite the fact that Covishield (developed by Oxford-Astrazeneca) and manufactured by Serum Institue of India (SII) was primarily used until Covaxin completed the third phase trials (with 81% efficacy).

Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav had gone even a step further to claim that he could not trust ‘BJP’s vaccine’. He claimed that he would only get vaccinated when his government is formed after the next election (which he eventually lost).

Lawyer-turned-activist Prashant Bhushan had discouraged the Indian government in early February from procuring the Covershield vaccine from a private company, the Serum Institute of India (SII).

He had blamed the government for supposedly splurging ₹35,000 crore funds for Coronavirus vaccines at a time when the pandemic is ‘naturally dying down’ in India.

One of the key roles played in the dissemination of vaccine hesitancy had been the pivotal role played by a section of the media. The Print was at the forefront of such a campaign.

Through its articles, it cast aspersions on the approval process for Covishield and Covaxin and propagated apprehensions about their safety and efficacy. It even insinuated that doctors were having doubts over the efficacy of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.

Leftist propaganda site The Wire too published articles that played a part in promoting vaccine hesitancy.

Casting doubts over which the vaccines were approved, and by extension questioning the efficacy of the vaccines, The Wire published an article whose headline read: “India has gained two vaccines but its regulators have tarnished Indian Science”.

The article argued that none of the two—Covishield and Covaxin—have presented the requisite data needed for approval and yet they were permitted for emergency usage by the Drugs Controller General of India.

Screengrab of the news report by The Wire

They collectively led a nefarious online campaign to create panic and cast aspersions on the efficacy of the Coronavirus vaccine. This had aggravated the situation, with many refusing to be jabbed against the Wuhan Coronavirus.

The continued effort at creating this ‘vaccine hesitancy’ had endangered the lives of countless people. However, regardless of all the propaganda, misinformation, assumptions and aspersions, India has achieved what no country (other than China) has achieved so far.

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Dibakar Dutta
Dibakar Dutta
Fascinated by Indian politics

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