Research and innovation — from medical breakthroughs to our mission to Mars — have put India on the global map. Today, India is among the top countries in the world in these fields, with a robust technical community that continues to pursue excellence. This is not only a cause for great pride but also a key driver of our economic growth and development
We have every reason to celebrate India’s achievements in vaccine research, development, and manufacturing. Each year, vaccines produced by Indian companies save the lives of thousands of children in India and around the world. In fact, India exports more vaccines than any other country: the majority of vaccines administered globally are made in India.
Indian vaccines make it possible to eliminate diseases far from our own country. Rubella vaccines, supplied by Indian manufacturers to countries in the Americas, helped eliminate rubella from this entire region. Similarly, an Indian-manufactured vaccine against meningococcal serogroup meningitis has led to the near elimination of this deadly disease from the “meningitis belt” of Africa.
India’s elimination of polio has been hailed as one of the greatest achievements in the history of global health. Many questioned whether India could ever eliminate polio, given the vast size of the country and complex obstacles facing the elimination programme. But through tireless efforts of the government and a multitude of partners, including media, India was certified polio-free by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2014.
Global polio eradication is now viewed as an achievable goal, in large part because India proved that elimination is possible, even in the most challenging circumstances.
A decline in infant and child deaths
Today, India’s Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) offers protection to our children from 12 diseases. Recently, a vaccine against rotavirus, developed by a partnership that included the Indian Department of Biotechnology and Bharat Biotech, received recognition by the WHO for its quality, safety, and effectiveness and was approved for use globally.
Vaccines are safe and effective and save millions of lives around the world each year. In India, we have recently seen the highest ever decadal decline in infant and child deaths. Improved routine immunization coverage across India, as well as the introduction of several new vaccines, have helped drive this trend.
The policy and programmatic decisions that have made this a reality were based on science. The government of India’s National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI), which makes recommendations on vaccine introductions and other policies, is composed of some of the greatest scientific minds in our country.
Vaccines are introduced after a rigorous process of safety and efficacy studies, and the government has the robust infrastructure in place to monitor for adverse events or reactions. The government of India is doing commendable work to make sure that these life-saving technologies are available to every child.
As a scientist who has spent decades working on these issues, I appeal to everyone to focus on the evidence and facts. By following the science, we make decisions that benefit not only India but also its neighbors, as infections have no respect for boundaries.
We must do everything in our power to protect and save the lives of India’s children, and where we can, of children around the world. In keeping with our great tradition of scientific achievements, this is something which we can all be proud of.