By Vijay Chauthaiwale
India has been undertaking the world’s largest vaccination drive. In less than three months, we have managed to provide more than 100 million doses across the country, which is more than the population of Germany. The country has already achieved one of the highest daily vaccinations per day across the globe with 4.3 million vaccinations, which is close to the population of New Zealand.
India has also achieved the fastest rate of reaching the 100 million vaccination milestone, ahead of the United States (US) and China. Our daily vaccination rates are also among the highest in the world. This doesn’t mean that there is no scope for improvement. Of course, we need to expand capacity and continue innovating, which has been our approach throughout the pandemic.
In the beginning, there are two insinuations — first, that there is a vaccine crunch, and, second, that everyone immediately needs a vaccine. We must understand that vaccines are a scarce commodity in the world. They are not like candies which can be manufactured, supplied, and consumed any time and anywhere.
That is why India, as well as other countries, decided to prioritise groups which are vulnerable. The primary purpose of vaccination is mortality reduction and decreasing the burden on the health care system. This was laid down by the government in 2020 itself.
India has set a target of vaccinating around 300 million vulnerable citizens by August, and we are very much on course to achieve that. There is no supply crunch when it comes to achieving this target.
Here, it is also important to understand that vaccines are a preventive tool which works after a lag period of six to 10 weeks. It is not a treatment to be administered to reduce the case-load in the middle of a wave. To focus only on vaccines and not pay attention to ramping up testing, tracing and proper treatment will be counterproductive.
At this rate, shall we make the vaccination programme more targeted and focus on high-rises and slums within cities? Shall we focus more on malls and markets given the high density of people found here? Is there a successful display of this strategy anywhere in the world? However provocative the argument is, when a government decides on a strategy, it needs to be both equitable and feasible.
Adding additional layers of complexity is neither feasible nor desirable.
(The Op-Ed appeared in The Hindustan Times)