India, despite severe constraints and within its own limited resources, has tried to "walk the talk" on vaccine equity and shared COVID-19 vaccines with more than 80 countries, the country told the United Nations.
The UN Department of Global Communications (DGC), which spreads awareness around the world about the work the UN does, has actively encouraged further sharing of vaccine doses from all countries, Counsellor in India's Permanent Mission to the United Nations A. Amarnath said in the General Assembly's 43rd Session of Committee on Information.
India urged the Department to also "suitably highlight the efforts of Member States, international organisations, and vaccine producers, who have already done so, especially with those who need it most."
India, despite the severe constraints and within our own limited resources, has tried to walk the talk' on vaccine equity. We have shared vaccines with more than 80 countries and provided life-saving drugs, medicines and protective equipment to over 150 countries. Our efforts underscore that we will not defeat the pandemic unless all of us, everywhere, come out of it safely, Amarnath said.
Under India's "Vaccine Maitri" initiative, which translates into Vaccine Friendship, the country has been providing vaccines to nations across the world - from India's immediate neighbours to countries in Latin America and Africa - and is a significant source of supply to the COVAX facility.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
As of today, a total of 66.37 million Made-in-India COVID-19 vaccine supplies have been sent through grants, commercial arrangements and COVAX initiative to 95 nations around the world.
The cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in India currently stands at 14,78,27,367 as on April 28.
As nations roll-out vaccination drives, there is widespread conversation about whether the COVID-19 vaccine is trustworthy and what the side effects are, Amarnath said.
Dissemination of scientific and fact-based answers to the above questions are key to enhance the trustworthiness' of the vaccines among the people, Amarnath said, urging the DGC to give due focus to vaccine safety, in its global communications, to shore up public confidence on vaccines.
Without this, our common goal of vaccinating the entire humanity cannot be achieved, Amarnath said.
India lauded the DGC for launching the 'Verified' initiative and also ensuring the content presented on COVID-19 UN portal is relevant and up-to-date.
The innovative use of social media by the Department to promote and amplify the 'Verified' initiative is also commendable, he said.
Launched in May last year, the Verified' initiative is aimed at promoting and sharing verified and science-based content and fact-based advice amid the pandemic.
As the world continues to battle with multiple waves of COVID-19 infections, Amarnath said the pandemic has been the biggest challenge the world has confronted in recent decades and there has never been a greater need for accurate and reliable information.
"Misinformation has spread rapidly, like the virus itself, and people around the world have been looking for a trusted information source that provides scientific and fact-based information, he said.
Through the coordinated communications response by the UN Communications Group Crisis Team, which is co-chaired by the DGC, the UN has earned the trust of global citizens as a reliable source of COVID-related information, he said, adding that more than 2 million unique visits to the UN's dedicated COVID-19 website and the triple-fold increase in visitors to the UN News website testifies this.
India called on the DGC to work with Member States, other UN and international organisations, and new and traditional media companies in holding educational and public awareness activities to tackle the issue of disinformation and misinformation.India has also supported and participated in DGC's OnlyTogether' campaign, a social-media campaign that has helped reiterate the message across the world that COVID-19 vaccination is a global public good and affordable, equitable and fair access to vaccines for all is an immutable requirement.