"This smacks of racism."
India has been left upset with the UK’s new vaccine-linked travel curbs, with some accusing the UK of “vaccine racism”.
The new rules, which will become effective from October 4, 2021, were described as an attempt to change the current “red, amber, green traffic light system” to a single red list of countries and “simplified travel measures” for arrivals from around the world.
Under these rules, only people who have received two doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna or the single shot Janssen vaccine “under an approved vaccination program in the UK, Europe, US or UK vaccine programme overseas” will be considered fully vaccinated.
However, those who have not had a vaccine from these programmes will be considered “unvaccinated”.
This includes Indians who have had two doses of Covishield (the local Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine).
This means they will have to undergo 10 days of quarantine.
The new rules have ignited a debate, with former Union ministers Jairam Ramesh and Shashi Tharoor slamming the changes.
Ramesh had accused the UK of “vaccine racism”, tweeting:
“Absolutely bizarre considering Covishield was originally developed in the UK and The Serum Institute, Pune has supplied to that country too!
“This smacks of racism.”
Tharoor was also angered, revealing he pulled out of his UK book launch as a result.
The matter was debated on NDTV, with former Health Secretary K Sujatha Rao saying the matter was a market fight as opposed to racism.
#LeftRightCentre | "I think it is more a market fight than racism. They would like that their vaccines have the command over the export market and not India's": K Sujatha Rao (@sujakrao), Former Health Secretary, on UK's policy on vaccinated Indians pic.twitter.com/ECaKsMJOe8
— NDTV (@ndtv) September 20, 2021
She said: “We have so much stock to export and their (the UK) vaccine has a command of the export market and not India.
“India’s production capacity is so huge and overwhelming so they’d like to bring as much of a discredit to the Indian vaccine as possible.
“So that could be one reason and that so many Indians are going to the UK so it is a good market for them.
“You have to pay for the hotel, you have to pay for the two vaccines they have to take.
“So this is another way of raising revenue for themselves.”
Rao went on to say: “There could also be a credibility issue in the sense that the vaccine policy in India did invite a lot of controversy.”
Rao explained that unlike the UK’s Public Health England, India has different health authorities in each state.
She said that this has provided the UK with an opportunity to claim that India’s legitimacy of their vaccines is something to be suspicious of.
Professor Ravindra Gupta, of Cambridge University, weighed in on the matter and said:
“It needs to be a coordinated effort. WHO should lead on this.”
The suspicions surrounding the legitimacy of India’s Covid-19 vaccines were slammed by Dr PS Narang, of Max Healthcare.
He said: “80 crore people in India have been vaccinated and you cannot call their vaccines as fake.
“We are able to export vaccines and many countries are dependent on India for vaccines.”
The matter has been criticised by India, but the allegations of “vaccine racism” has not been echoed by everyone.