Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare during the inauguration of the 62nd Delhi State Annual Medical Conference, in New Delhi on Sunday March 07, 2021 (Photo: IANS/Wasim Sarvar). Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, March 7 : Underlining the importance of equitable distribution of vaccines, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Sunday that India cannot remain safe from Covid-19 if the disease continues to dominate the rest of the world.

The minister asserted that the countries need to curb the tendency of "vaccine nationalism" if they want to eradicate the disease entirely. "India or any other nation cannot remain safe from coronavirus and Covid-19 disease if the rest of the world continues to be at risk of it, which is why it is essential to curb COVID-19 vaccine nationalism," he stated.

Highlighting the importance of equity-based approach to vaccine distribution, Vardhan said that safety for all cannot be ensured if marginalised nations continue to harbour the virus due to dearth of vaccines.

"If the poor and underdeveloped countries continue to harbour the novel coronavirus, we shall not be able to ensure safety for all. Fair and equitable distribution of the vaccine is the biggest need of the hour," he stated.

Vardhan also drew a similarity of the current situation with the epidemic of polio. "Children in the entire world need to be vaccinated against poliomyelitis only because Pakistan and Afghanistan failed to eradicate this disease from their respective countries," he said.

"Similarly, India cannot be safe from coronavirus if the rest of the world continues to remain unsafe from it," he stressed.

Noting India's contribution to provide Covid-19 vaccines to different nations under the 'Vaccine Maitri' programme, Vardhan informed that 5.51 crore doses have been supplied to 62 countries so far.

"Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has emerged as the world's pharmacy, and we have supplied 5.51 crore COVID-19 vaccines to 62 different countries. At a time of global crisis, under the leadership of PM Shri Narendra Modi Ji, India has emerged as an example to the world in international cooperation," he said.

Vardhan made these remarks during the Delhi Medical Association's (DMA) 62nd Annual Delhi State Medical Conference (MEDICON 2021) where he was felicitated for outstanding service and exemplary work during the Covid-19 pandemic. The minister is a past president of the association.

Dr B.B. Wadhwa, president, DMA recalled Vardhan's work in the polio eradication programme when he was Delhi's health minister.

"Dr Harsh Vardhan is the pride of the medical fraternity. He has been the president of DMA in the past. We acknowledge and appreciate his exemplary missionary zeal in getting India polio-free when he was president of DMA in 1993-1994. While serving as the health minister of Delhi, he started the novel Pulse Polio programme which was later taken up by the whole country, and eventually by the SAARC nations. We proudly recall our association with him," he said.

Vardhan had served as Delhi's Health minister from 1993 to 1998. Apart from health, he was in-charge of portfolios including education, law, and legislative affairs.

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