2020 was a horrible, horrible year! This, we said bluntly about 2019 too. And we’re collectively regretting our judgement after seeing 2021. At the beginning of this year, new year wishes, like all years, emphasised hope and wellness, which imperceptibly pointed towards the vaccine.
India started its massive vaccination drive on 16th January. About 15 crore shots have been given equivalent to 11.5% of India’s 130 crores population. About 2.6 crore people have been fully vaccinated, which is 1.9% of India’s population. Serum Institute (Pune) and Bharat Biotech are producing at their maximum, yet the drive trudges.
A major reason for the trudging is the unawareness or mistrust about the vaccine.
People are dubious if the vaccine would produce side effects. To a great population, Prime Minister himself not taking the vaccine for one and half months was a sign of trusting their mistrust, and rightly so. However, the die-hard supporters of the government theorise that if the PM would have taken the vaccine in its initial stage, it would have created another controversy by the opposition of the Prime Minister being selfish. So, let’s agree that he is not.
Narendra Modi took his first jab of Covaxin on the 1st of March, one and half months post the launch.
A prime minister with such comfortable media management has not yet established that vaccination is the only beacon of hope in this crisis.
Till now, people are dubious about the vaccine. A few are waiting for Covaxin to enter the markets and scale up in vaccination centres. Since the production of Covaxin tarries the production of Covidshield by 1:9, Modi taking Covaxin wasn’t the smartest of moves.
He should have taken Covidshield for the confidence of the people. But he did not and let’s agree again, he is not selfish.
The Prime Minister or the Cabinet taking vaccines is not a personal convenience, but a public symbolism.
To accept the exposed-failed health structure would mean committing a political blunder. Also, confession is not his cup of tea.
Something he could have done is better promotion of the vaccine. He could have weaved it into the narrative of his Nationalism- “Vaccine lagwao, Desh bachao!”
He could have, deftly, called to his aid the internal-matter-rescuing-celebrities and thaali-banging-kin. But, he did not.
The swiftest way to dodge mismanagement is to talk about the way forward. After two stages of vaccination, a new vaccination stage grouping the age group of 18-45 has been launched on May 1. This stage is being carried with the other two stages, simultaneously. But the abundance of demand is becoming a hefty hurdle for the drive, making it more of a rollercoaster.
The vaccination drive should be carried out on the basis of the concentration of cases. A country with a huge population and high population density, which is blamed for every problem there is, needs a focused, gradient-based vaccination drive.
Intensely infected areas must be recognised and a gradient scale must be made on the basis of severity. Even though we tend to forget the federal structure of our country, the vaccination drive must keep its sight on it.
State governments should identify the worst affected districts and the District Administration should identify the worst affected areas in the city. For instance, a city like Delhi, now under the eyes of the Lieutenant Governor appointed by the Centre, can be segmented into 40 odd blocks, which then could be graded on the basis of the severity of the areas. The scrutinized clusters should be targeted first at vaccination, followed by lesser affected areas.
This process can accelerate the vaccination drive and produce efficient results.
The nature of this pandemic demands cluster-specific treatment and not a scattered mismanaged vaccination.