India’s Covid Hell and Biden’s Eyedropper

On Wednesday, April 28, India registered a staggering 379,308 new COVID-19 infections and 3,645 deaths, and its statistical curve looks steeper every day. Yet experts agree that those official numbers are probably a severe undercount. India is entering a covid hell, and since less than 2% of the population of 1.4 billion has been fully vaccinated, there is little likelihood that it will end anytime soon.

A journalist in New Delhi captured the terror that millions in that densely populated city of 20 million, and throughout India, must feel:

“Crematories are so full of bodies, it’s as if a war just happened. Fires burn around the clock. Many places are holding mass cremations, dozens at a time, and at night, in certain areas of New Delhi, the sky glows… Sickness and death are everywhere… I’m sitting in my apartment waiting to catch the disease… It is out there, I am in here, and I feel like it’s only a matter of time before I, too, get sick.”

Yet the government has not encouraged mask wearing, distancing, or lockdowns, and has allowed mass election rallies for Prime Minister Modi’s party and huge Hindu religious gatherings that shore up the Prime Minister’s voting base. Nationalist political leaders are bringing people onto the streets and downplaying the severity of the crisis, knowing that poor and working class Indians will pay the price. The writer Arundhati Roy wrote recently that what is happening in India is “a crime against humanity.”

And as millions of Indians struggle to survive this massive surge in spite of their government, what has the rest of the world done? The UK, France, Singapore and Thailand have all sent shipments of aid – mostly oxygen tanks, ventilators, and other small equipment. The Biden administration just pledged as many as 60 million doses of vaccine for India.

This would be a nice start, except for the catch: the vaccine he’s offering is made by AztraZeneca, which hasn’t even been approved for use in the U.S., and was manufactured by Emergent Biosolutions at their Baltimore plant where production was halted amid fears of contamination. With friends like the U.S. who needs enemies?

Maybe more important, those doses are far too little, far too late. Even if the vaccines arrive today, it would take months for them to begin taking effect, as hundreds of thousands die. And even then, the effects would be miniscule compared to the scale of the problem. As one global health care advocate said, sending 60 millions doses of vaccine to India is like “showing up to a four-alarm fire with an eyedropper full of water.”

Biden, Trump, Modi and the world leaders who manage this system have condemned millions around the world to death for political gain, corporate profit, and nationalism. And they’ll do it again and again, unless we rise up and remove them from their positions of power.