As India grapples with the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK might engage in vaccine production with the Indian government, a hint to this regard was given by UK lawmaker Blackman

In an exclusive interview with India News Network, Member of Parliament of the UK Bob Blackman said, “India is the capital of vaccine production and was in a position whereby India had contracts to supply vaccines all over the world and the people of India needed to be vaccinated.

One of the concerns we have right now is that the mutation appears that is very transmissible so it affects more quickly and it indeed affects younger people which is something we haven’t seen very much in the UK. So, in this regard, we are concerned that we may need to develop a special vaccine against it and we will do so in cooperation with the Indian government.”

Asked how soon this vaccine would roll out, Blackman said, “We have to not only create the vaccines but also do clinical trials to make sure that they are both safe and efficacious because what we don’t want is to give people false hope that a vaccine has protected them when it doesn’t do the job. We don’t want to have a vaccination program in India that doesn’t combat the strain otherwise people will be given false confidence so work is going on to research that right now. I can’t say when it will be available in any commercial quantities. India being such a massive country with a massive population will have to have a very major vaccination program. But as soon as we can, we want to help.”

On similar lines, UK Prime Minister Borris Johnson has also signaled that the country would be accelerating its vaccination program in the coming days. The country has already delivered one of the world's fastest inoculation campaigns, giving the first shot to almost 70% of the adult population and a second to 36%, helping to reduce infection rates and deaths.

The UK has also been sending medical equipment to India since last month and it has been the biggest donor with not only the government but the Indian diaspora in the UK have come together to extend support. However, just as the other members of the global community, the UK was criticized for acting later than expected.

In this regard, Blackman said, “The most important thing was that the UK government was going to act in cooperation with the Indian government to ensure that we provided the right help as quickly as possible. The problem is sometimes in these circumstances you can for all good reason send stuff over but it might not be what is required at that time. So, it is very important I think if there was cooperation between the two governments. We were the biggest donor of aid to India and the quickest to deliver in cooperation with the Indian government. The Indian diaspora in the UK who have organized all sorts of sponsorship and donation capability and we are trying to ensure that their help is provided in the right place.”

India's Covid caseload has crossed the 2 crore mark and the country has been reporting more than 3 lakh cases every week. The World Health Organization has called the situation in India "hugely concerning". Besides, the global media has criticized India for not handling the pandemic in the right way saying that the country had a year to prepare.

On this, Blackman, who is known to be the biggest friend of India in the UK, defended the country and said, “I think the reality is that the virus all over the world has hit everyone by surprise originally when the first wave hit us. We are on our third wave. Honestly, I think India has done incredibly well to get over the first wave, and given the population and the density of population then it was very difficult to see how it was that India had not been as badly affected as many other countries in the first wave. I think the second wave India is experiencing right now is probably because the virus is mutated and it changes its nature. I think it has taken everyone by surprise. You can’t blame the government and you can’t blame doctors for this because this wasn’t spotted.”

“What we do know about the virus is that once it starts spreading, it spreads like wildfire and obviously in India you have got large connotations of people living very close to each other and mixing and as a result of that the virus will be spread very quickly and there is almost nothing you can do about that and I think to criticize India for this position is ridiculous because all countries have suffered in some shape or form and everywhere where there is a high density of population it is been very serious so from that perspective you can always say that you should be better prepared. But, how can you prepare for this? I fail to see how anyone could have prepared better for this,” he added.

The global media has also targeted India for not setting up enough hospitals after the first wave even as scientists had warned of the second wave.

For this, Blackman said, “We in the UK had to set up brand new hospitals in the first wave and then they were never used. They haven’t been used at all during the process. India wasn’t in a luxurious position to set up emergency hospitals and leave them sitting there in case they might be needed. I think that would be an incredible way to waste the resource. So, I think that actually the Indian government should be praised for all these services and should be praised for setting up emergency hospitals so quickly which is a very serious health scenario. But everyone has come together to make it better.”

However, he said that election rallies in the country taking place amid the pandemic are an area of concern. As the virus is invisible, people unknowingly carry it with themselves, he said, leading to an unprecedented spread. For this, he said that the Indian government should increase the testing rate as fast as possible as done by the UK government.

“You know the virus is invisible and often people don’t know that they have got it. So from that perspective our regime in the UK is now very heavily orientated about testing people to see if they are carrying the virus irrespective of showing symptoms but are they carrying the virus. So my advice would be that obviously, a testing program has to be implemented in India as much as possible to make sure this virus is not passed on,” Blackman said.