Engaging narrative

India’s Vaccine Growth Story is full of anecdotes and is a good read

How did the horse breeders, the Poonawallas, become the biggest vaccine manufacturers in the world? In 1966, Cyrus S. Poonawalla’s mare was bitten by a snake. Government regulations were so complicated that by the time the antivenom arrived from the Haffkine Institute in Mumbai, the animal had died. Poonawalla decided to make serum himself, and founded the Serum Institute of India.

Sajjan Singh Yadav’s book is replete with stories about the history of vaccination.

He tells the story of three-year-old Anna Dusthall, the producer of the first smallpox vaccine in India. In 1802, she was inoculated with cowpox vaccine and developed blisters. Doctors removed fluid from her pustules, to inoculate other children. Much before animals were used, vaccines were produced in the bodies of small children for almost a century.

Yadav, a finance ministry official, has a doctorate in public health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He writes in a simple fashion with short chapters, and a narrative shorn of drama.

From the dawn of vaccination to the world’s largest vaccination programme—India’s Covid-19 vaccination, Yadav tells stories of triumphs and failures. He discusses how the digital vaccination platform was formed. He discusses vaccine hesitancy and vaccine eagerness, vaccine diplomacy and international competition.

Despite its text-bookish appearance, this is a rather good read in these times, when vaccination is up there in everyone’s mindspace.

India’s Vaccine Growth Story: From Cowpox to Vaccine Maitri

By Sajjan Singh Yadav

Published by Sage Publishing
Price Rs595 Pages 264