India is not only one of the largest, but also one of the most densely populated countries in the world. India is a country whose history stretches back to the earliest known civilisations in the Indus Valley, some of the oldest known scriptures in the Vedas, and the most enduring religious traditions under Hinduism. As of 2020, some 1.38 billion people called the subcontinent home. Tragically, this makes India particularly vulnerable to global pandemics.
The Devastation of Covid
Covid-19 is not a particularly lethal disease, but when multiplied by tens of millions, deaths come in the hundreds of thousands. To date, 44.5 million people across India have made up the number of confirmed cases, of whom half a million died. During the first wave to hit India, around September 2020, testing was not as widespread as it later became. However, even then, some 1,300 people a day were dying from the disease. This number skyrocketed, however, in the summer of the following year, climbing to over 5,000 per day. Even today, India ranks third as the most affected country in the world, behind Brazil and the United States, in both cases and fatalities. The devastation, fortunately, did not reach every corner of the subcontinent. India is vast, and proportionally speaking, there were ‘only’ 376 deaths per 1 million heads of the overall population, which is relatively low compared to some countries. Nevertheless, India was by no means spared from the secondary effects, as the focus on Covid created setbacks in efforts to combat other diseases, such as tuberculosis, resulting in tens of thousands more deaths, something which could take decades to fix.
Effects on Indian Healthcare
Over 700 doctors in India died from Covid, which scratches the surface of how many other healthcare workers were affected. From a patient perspective, globally speaking, those most affected were those of senior living, something which was particularly prominent in the United States, and India was no exception either. Naturally, this meant that care workers were also particularly affected due to their proximity. Tens of thousands of healthcare workers in India have been infected over the past two years, and many of those now suffer from Long Covid.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
However, India, as it always has, now begins to rise above this. India began its vaccination program in January of 2021, one of the first countries to do so, primarily through the use of the adenovirus vaccine created by AstraZeneca first developed in the UK, and then later the Sputnik V, a similar adenovirus vaccine developed by Russia, and the American’s Moderna vaccine, using the mRNA mechanism of action. To date, 1.7 billion doses have been administered, with 720 million people fully vaccinated across India, a staggering achievement, and testament to 9 and a half million strong healthcare workers and 14 million additional volunteers. India is no stranger to healthcare crises, however. As the dust from this pandemic settles, India’s doctors and scientists continue to work to protect its vast population from microscopic threats, both old and new, from Malaria to Monkeypox.