The novel coronavirus has proved to be lethal for all of us. At the same time, it has taught many lessons. This disease is a collective challenge to humanity. So, it was only fair to have a collective response by having coordinated research to find its treatment and vaccine. The world should have come together to fight it. That, however, is not the case. As always, it’s the same handful of countries and universities which are at the forefront to fight this pandemic, while the rest of the world is busy waiting for the breakthrough.
The University of Oxford has come up with a vaccine that looks promising. This is how universities contribute & solve issues facing humanity- be it health, business, politics, or other social sciences. Our people establish institutions when it becomes shame not to. They’re struggling to conduct exams. If there’s no grand vision & no burning desire to accomplish it, institutions become degree-printing centers. Oxford might have come up with – what is apparently the best- hitherto, but other nations & their relevant institutions are continuously reporting improvement in their drugs & possible vaccines. In the United States, we have four candidates being tested, while the first human trial began in Seattle in March with a vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. The National Institute of Health, funded the research. They started larger sample trials in June. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also funded vaccine trials by Invovio Pharma- a local biotech firm.
In China, the biotech company- CanSino Biologics, The Beijing & Wuhan Institutes of Biological Products, & the Chinese Academic of Medical Sciences are conducting late-stage trials, and are set to be launched in Brazil. In Australia, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, the Chinese Clover Pharma, the US-based Novavox are doing human trials in the country, and are soon going to do testing in the US and other countries. The United Kingdom has given multiple hopes. Apart from the Oxford vaccine, which received the fund of $25 million from the government, AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been termed as ‘likely the world’s leading candidate’. Moreover, the Imperial College, London is also in its early stages of vaccine development.
In Germany, the local firm BioNtech is working in collaboration with the US pharma company Pfizer and the Chinese Fosun Pharma. They first began human trials in Germany followed by the trials in the US. Another German firm recently launched trials for another vaccine candidate. As per cfr.org, Russia & South Korea are also conducting clinical trials for vaccines. Governments, Private sector, International institutions, nonprofits & research institutions of these elected countries are funding, being funded, & coming up with results that could hopefully provide relief to humanity in the coming months.
As per the Finbold.com coronavirus research index, the top 10 countries leading the world in this fight against Covid-19 are the United States, China, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, Turkey, and Switzerland. In mid-April, the US had 106 studies, followed by China’s 68 and France’s 66.
The fact of the matter is that only a few advanced nations & their institutions are carrying the burden of the rest, in this context. India is equal to almost 25 to 30 average countries, in terms of size & population. What has it contributed? Yes, it is the third-largest journal article producing nation but their standard can be gauged by the fact that none translates into an idea or solution that solves human problems. Infosys founder, Narayana Murthy, said in 2015 & I quote ”There has not been a single invention from India in the last 60 years that became a household name globally, nor any idea that led to the earth-shaking invention to delight global citizens”.
What about the Muslim world? They were the pioneers of science, logic & reason for centuries. In fact, there’s a book ‘What Went Wrong?’ written by Bernard Lewis. He has said ”for centuries the Islamic world was at the forefront of human civilization and achievement”.
The NewAtlantis also quotes a professor of the history of science at the University of Oklahoma, who said ”Nothing in Europe could hold a candle to what was going on in the Islamic world until about 1600”. Algebra, Algorithm, Alchemy, Alcohol, Alkali, Nadir, Coffee, Lemon- are all derived from Arabic, showing Islam’s contribution to the West. What exactly changed?
God gives the leadership of the world to those who excel in science & technology. There has never been a super-power who achieved or maintained this feat without staying at the top of modern sciences. Why did Muslims lose it around the year 1600? How did the West achieve it around the same time? So let’s not hide behind the excuses of ‘we are the third world countries, with a bad economy so on & so forth’. This is an alibi. Europe too was the same. How did they turn the tables around? Why do our countries continue to be the third-world countries? Why do we still have weak economies? It’s been decades.
Where’s even the sign of hope? There isn’t. This is because it’s the mindset that changes the fate of nations. The Gulf states surely don’t lack money. They are richer than most European States. Why don’t they contribute inventions and translatable ideas? The Arabs are 5% of the world population, but their book output (notwithstanding the standards) is 1.1%. The defense budgets of our countries in South Asia and the MIddle-East are huge.
This is because our hollow nationalism, bigotry, hate, tunnelled view of life, short-sightedness, majoritarianism, and intolerance of others head our priority list. Then governments too follow the suit. In order to keep people happy, who keep them in power, the countries are led into the pit of emotionalism, where scientific and technological advancement is the last preference of the people. We have adapted to be consumer economies, in every sense of it.
If we don’t want to be freeloaders and yearn to contribute substantially, there has to be a tectonic shift in the way we think, grade & prioritize. If this doesn’t happen at the collective level, it would be of no use. Even today, we have many people who understand it at an individual level but they’re left with no option but to migrate to the developed world. It’s not that we lack creativity. These inventions coming from the West, have contributions from our people too.
It’s just that we can not develop such a massive infrastructure if it doesn’t become our top priority. And it won’t happen if belligerence with our neighboring countries is not done away with. It won’t transpire if this policy-change doesn’t happen in the entire region, or else no single country could risk lowering its guard.
It will not happen overnight but the beginning of it can be initiated overnight. That, however, seems unlikely as supremacy, prejudice, racism, sectarianism, jingoism, and hegemony seem to be gaining the ground. And it’s not so much the governments which are responsible-as they’re the consequence of the people’s psyche. This shouldn’t end our hopes though. We have to strive to make such a beginning. And we must.