There is one solution to the problem we have at hand. The problem whose gravity many haven’t understood. Dead bodies are piling up outside morgues and hospitals. Dead family members have to be carried away unceremoniously, never to be heard of. Medical staff have to choose who to serve and who to let die. This is a reality that is NOT sinking in enough. But yes, there is one solution.
Efforts of hospital capacity increases and training of non-medical staff to treat covid patients are mere palliatives. We are ignoring the single most powerful weapon we have – the vaccine. Once fully vaccinated, a person will not die by Covid, or get severe symptoms that need medical care, even if he or she contracts the disease. Covaxin is faster at giving immunity, as the gap between doses is only 4 weeks. A crucial 4 weeks less than the other option. But they are making about 5 million doses a month, and have declared that they will make 12 million a month, but only by June 2021.
Instead of building hundreds of temporary hospitals to handle the diseased, can we build 2 or 3 mega-factories that can take this capacity increase to 120 million or more, instead of the 12 million planned by Bharat Biotech? Mr. Gadkari is building roads like there is no tomorrow, which makes him my favourite minister, because roads give the best return on a government’s development spend. But in the pandemic context, the road equivalent is prevention via vaccines.
Nitinji, is it possible to focus your capabilities for building a few mega-factories of Covaxin, like there is no tomorrow? Somebody has to, but nobody has better skills and resources than you. Roadbuilding can run on auto-pilot for a while. But vaccines can’t. And you are a person who can build things at record-breaking speeds, overcoming bureaucratic obstacles at an unbelievable pace. You have ministers like Piyushji and Nirmalaji with you. Can you build this mega factory, or at least organize people to pour in a collective effort? The inter-ministerial taskforce is looking into vaccines, but their growth targets are organic, not exponential. Governments are training Anganwadi workers and paramilitary staff for Covid care. But it is far easier to train people to run a vaccine factory than to train them for medical care of something as complex as Covid-19. Just rope in all those pharmacy graduates and chemical engineers.
The vaccine mega-factories might create over-capacity which is useless after the pandemic, but it is a better future buffer to have, than having an over-capacity of half-capable medical infra in stadiums. A set of factories that can make 120 million vaccines (if not more) monthly can solve the Covid problem much faster not just for India, but for the world. We can sell it to other countries at cost, instead of giving it free, so that it becomes practicable and affordable for India and Bharat Biotech. Nations will still benefit if they have to buy this at 2$ to 5$ a dose because it saves them from paying much steeper fees to a Pfizer or other equivalents.
Nitinji (and anyone else who is reading this and has resources), we need you to act today. Building things is your passion, so for now, can we use it to build mega-mega-vaccine capacity, like there is no tomorrow? If we don’t, then for too many, there will actually be no tomorrow.
Managing Editor, bonnetbots.com
(Note: Although bonnetbots.com is a satire and humor site, the above letter is an editorial and an earnest request to the Honorable Minister, and has nothing to do with satire or humor).