While the Indian government has been addressing media briefings three times a week, it has not released enough information for scientists, journalists, as well as citizens to protect themselves from the viral apocalypse we are in. Instead, the Modi administration has been engaged in a performance of numbers in which they refer to people in percentages and families broken in mortality rates.
These are 10 questions that the administration must answer:
1. Why is Covaxin, the Bharat Biotech vaccine funded by Indian taxpayers and developed at National Institute of Virology, Pune, not available to citizens for free?
On 25 April, Bharat Biotech announced that it was increasing the price of Covaxin, its COVID-19 vaccine, to Rs 600 per dose for state governments and to Rs 1,200 per dose for the private sector. Meanwhile, the company would continue to sell the vaccine at Rs 150 to the central government, which would be distributed to states for free. A few days later, the company said it would supply the vaccine to states for Rs 400 instead of Rs 200.
The Indian Council for Medical Research has helped Bharat Biotech in developing Covaxin and has co-funded its research. The National Institute of Virology, which is an ICMR laboratory, performed the critical task of isolating the SARS-CoV2 strain used in developing the vaccine. Yet, the company has claimed in the past that it never took any money from the government and has justified its prices as necessary to cover the costs of development and production. Even if the company has incurred costs, like using an expensive Biosafety Level 3 to make the inactivated virus vaccine, the government should absorb the costs in the middle of one of the worst outbreaks of the pandemic to make sure that price is not a deterrent to getting people vaccinated.