Asia-Pacific

India: vaccine free market let virus spread

05 June 2021
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Reported numbers now show over 25 million cases in India, with more than 280,000 dead. Experts say the real figure is several times higher. Even going by the reported numbers, India has the second-highest number of cases in the world after the US. There have been reports of metal structures of furnaces at some crematoria in Gujarat melting or breaking, due to being used round-the-clock to cope with the amount of bodies.

Many people are struggling even to find the means to cremate their loved ones. There is a rising number of poor Hindus who cannot afford cremation in the face of the rapidly rising number of deaths. Their only option is to float their family members down the Ganges river, potentially poisoning it. Hundreds of corpses have been found floating in the Ganges or buried in the sand of its banks. 

Shortages of oxygen and hospital beds are common. Those from the propertied classes can afford to pay extra to get their hands on scarce oxygen cylinders and drugs. However, an inadequate health system means that there are only so many hospitals, and even those with money can’t always gain access to hospital beds. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the working and lower classes are left to watch their loved ones die.

So far, out of a population of 1.4 billion, only about 26 million people in India have been fully vaccinated, while about 124 million have received a single dose. India has orders placed for millions more doses, but the country is still far short of what it needs, despite having the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India.

After donating or selling more than 66 million doses as exports, it was only in March that corporate greed was temporarily contained with a halt on the export of vaccines. The Serum Institute was among the 418 Indian companies in 2019-2020 that reported revenue exceeding INR5,000 crores (55 billion Euro). It was also the company that earned the maximum net profit for every rupee of revenue, and has clearly profited immensely from the tide of human suffering caused by the virus.

As countries like India have no chance to ensure effective vaccination of their vast populations on their own, Imperialist countries must be forced by workers’ movements to take responsibility for paying for mass vaccination and treatment in semi-colonial countries like India. Britain has already secured three times more vaccines than its entire population needs. Vaccine hoarding must stop immediately.

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