- The Government of India’s flip-flop on the admissibility of the vaccine to eligible beneficiaries in May when the second Covid wave shot up to unexpected levels is still too fresh. Extending the eligibility criteria to include 18 years and above without ensuring the supply-side hurdles are adequately addressed proved to be one of the missteps affecting the other eligible category of people. Extending the gap between the two doses of Covishield to 12-16 weeks only added to the prevailing confusion. People who received the first dose eagerly awaiting their turn to receive the second dose had to be content waiting for weeks on.
- It is amply clear that the Government is found struggling in ensuring a steady supply of vaccines to meet the growing numbers despite raising hopes of procuring and dispatching the jabs to states through grand announcements. Note that the Government has committed to jabbing the eligible population by setting December as the deadline. Unfortunately, the progress witnessed in the past few weeks on the inoculation front hardly evokes any worthwhile confidence in meeting the stated objectives. What started on a grand scale on June 21st having touched a remarkable 80 plus lakhs jabs per day has slowly petered down in the absence of a stable supply of vaccines.
- Especially looking at the July performance so far will mirror the humongous challenges confronting the authorities vis-à-vis vaccination drive as the average daily inoculation has dipped below 40 lakhs past week. A mere glance at the vaccine administered over the past few months provides clarity as to where exactly we are headed. After 9 crore doses administered in April, vaccination dipped to 6 crore jabs in May, gradually reviving to 12 crore doses in June, and at present rates, will be 12 crore or less in July. Note that to meet the December target, vaccinating all adults requires 80 lakh jabs a day which is not meeting even half the numbers presently. This will only add up to the pressure on the system to scale up jabs substantially.
- To exacerbate the matter, the second Covid wave is neither behind us nor seems to be on definite wane as the caseload appears to be plateauing for a couple of weeks now with none wiser in predicting which way the curve will move henceforth. There are several states in the country, north-eastern states alongside Maharashtra and Kerala, who are still witnessing uncomfortable confirmed infection rates even after concerted efforts to tame the virus to manageable levels. The trajectory of the virus is extremely unpredictable, and the easing of restrictions has made way for unwanted phenomena of revenge tourism by the fatigued public looking to chill out.
- The social distancing measures have been the biggest casualty as also personal masking. We have witnessed how complacency leads to catastrophic consequences. As such, both vaccination and Covid appropriate norms are simply non-negotiable with every single citizen expected to adhere diligently. With the threat of newer mutants/strains looming large, the new Union Health Minister has his task cut out to ensure vaccine supply is unimpeded in the crucial coming weeks. Any further fall or failure to inoculate people on expected lines is bound to result in more devastation and agony on the citizens already reeling under the impact of successive lockdowns.