Afghanistan shoots down Indian troops support claims

Afghanistan shoots down Indian troops support claims
A man prepares allotments of free food donated by the Kabul Chamber of Industries and Mines for distribution to needy people. (AP)
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Updated 24 April 2020

Afghanistan shoots down Indian troops support claims

Afghanistan shoots down Indian troops support claims
  • Security chiefs dismiss ‘false’ reports that Indian military set to enter Afghanistan

KABUL: Afghan security chiefs on Thursday shot down reports that Indian troops were set to be deployed in the country to reinforce Kabul’s battle against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

The Khaama Press News Agency, an online Afghan news service, claimed that Indian military personnel were ready to enter Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Bhutan to support efforts to stem the spread of the deadly virus.

However, National Security Council spokesman, Javid Faisal, denied that Afghanistan had called on the Indian army to help in the country’s response to the pandemic.

“There has never been such a request from Kabul, nor has there been such a suggestion from Delhi. These are false reports, even false perceptions,” he told Arab News.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government has been forging closer ties with India, which in recent days has sent several thousand tons of wheat to Afghanistan for distribution to regions where the virus outbreak has had the worst economic impact.

For the past few years, New Delhi has also been supporting Kabul with military equipment, including army helicopters, in its fight against the Taliban who have closer ties with Pakistan — India’s archrival.

The deployment of Indian troops on Afghan soil, however, would be a highly sensitive matter in the region.

According to Khaama Press and several Indian media outlets that carried the story, the planned assistance was part of India’s policy of extending a helping hand to all friendly countries in the region, and followed a mission to the Maldives last month, in which an Indian military team helped to establish COVID-19 testing laboratories and train local medical professionals in dealing with
the disease.

Afghan Ministry of Health data on Thursday revealed that 1,226 cases of COVID-19 had been recorded in the country and 40 people had died after contracting the virus. But with the country struggling to diagnose and treat infections, the figures could well be higher than officially reported.

Wracked by violence and conflict since the Soviet invasion in 1979, Afghanistan is believed to lack the health care system and infrastructure required to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.


Safety fears hamper India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive

Safety fears hamper India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive
A medical worker inoculates a colleague with a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at the north central railway hospital in Allahabad on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 23 January 2021

Safety fears hamper India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive

Safety fears hamper India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive
  • Only half of the government’s target has been inoculated

NEW DELHI: The world’s biggest vaccination drive to inoculate 1.3 billion people against the coronavirus is slowing down in India as concerns over safety fuel vaccine hesitancy, especially among health workers.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the campaign on Jan. 16, with 30 million frontline health care workers the first to get the jab. A week into the drive, however, Health Ministry data suggest that on average only 150,000 people have been inoculated a day — half of the government’s target.
“There is a general hesitancy among healthcare workers, particularly doctors, about the efficacy of the vaccines,” Adarsh Pratap Singh, president of the Resident Doctors Association of the premier Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), told Arab News on Friday.
Two coronavirus vaccines have been approved for emergency use in India: the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced domestically as Covishield by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India, and a locally developed vaccine called Covaxin, produced by Indian company Bharat Biotech, which is still in its trial stage and has no final data on its efficacy.
“Lack of transparency is at the core of vaccine hesitancy,” Dr. Nirmalya Mohapatra of Delhi-based Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, told Arab News.
“We doctors should have jointly taken up the issue and asked the government to demonstrate more transparency in introducing the vaccine,” he said.
Mohapatra was one of the doctors who on Jan. 16 refused to take a Covaxin shot at his hospital.
Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum (PMSF) president, Dr. Harjit Singh Bhattialso, says that the absence of data is fueling “fear about the vaccination” among members of the medical community.
 Concerns also exist about the Covishield vaccine.

FASTFACT

Instead of digital campaigns, some doctors say that Indian leaders themselves should get the jabs to inspire trust in vaccination.

“Even there is hesitancy about Covishied. There is no enthusiasm for it. However, people will prefer Covishied over Covaxin,” Bhatti said.
In response to vaccine hesitancy, Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan on Thursday launched an information campaign to address what he said were “rumors and misinformation.”
“We have launched a digital media package with impactful messages from key technical experts from the country who have taken COVID-19 vaccine,” Vardhan told reporters.
The messages, he said, are that “vaccines are safe and efficacious,” and cover the “critical role of vaccines in controlling the pandemic.”
But instead of digital campaigns, some doctors say that Indian leaders themselves should get the jabs to inspire trust in vaccination.
“If the Indian PM Narendra Modi and other political high-ups take the vaccine then it will have a huge impact,” Singh said. “There is a lack of political consensus on vaccines. To inspire confidence all the state chief ministers should also take the shot.”
According to media reports, Modi may get vaccinated in the second phase of the campaign, in March or April, when 270 million people above the age of 50 will be inoculated.
Other health experts argue, however, that vaccinating leaders is not a substitute for scientific processes.
“Leadership taking the vaccine is more of a tokenism than coming out clean on the efficacy and the actual and effective profile of the vaccine,” said Amar Jesani, a Mumbai-based health expert and editor of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics.
“What is tragic is that our PM might be ready to take the risk of vaccination (but) he is not ready to offend the companies, which are sitting on the data. Why can’t they make the data public? This is what the doctors are asking for,” he told Arab News.
In the absence of scientific data, he argued, people with underlying health problems would be hesitant to get vaccinated when the immunization campaign reaches the general public.
“When you are not transparent today, then tomorrow comorbid people will be hesitant and then the general population will be reluctant,” he said.