Let The Fight Persist


Modi’s preference should drive confidence in Covaxin

INDIA has taken the fight against coronavirus pandemic to the next level by launching a nationwide drive to inoculate people who are 60 years of age and above and those aged 45 years and above and having comorbidities. Beginning March 1, those in the specified age groups and conditions would be able to get the jabs at the government facilities as well as in the private sector hospitals. While people will have to register themselves on “Cowin2” portal or Arogya Setu App to get themselves vaccinated, there will also be a chance to walk in  some of the centres as well to get vaccinated. This drive is expected to help the authorities to rein in the virus which continues to show its ugly head in newer areas. At least nine states have seen spurt in fresh COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks. In the latest phase of vaccination, the government has allowed people to choose their coronavirus vaccination centres while registering, effectively letting beneficiaries pick the vaccine. This move, the authorities feel, will help speed up the vaccination roll-out.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first recipient of the latest vaccination drive when he took the vaccine at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi. Incidentally, Modi preferred to get the jab only when he became eligible and did not rush to get himself protected by jumping the queue. He chose to get himself inoculated through home-grown Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council of Medical Research. The Prime Minister’s preference of Covaxin is aimed at allaying fears in public minds over the efficacy of the vaccine as it was allegedly “pushed” through by the authorities without following due process. Modi sought to send a message across the nation about the safety of the vaccine. He also appealed to all those who were eligible to take the vaccine to come forward and take the jabs. “Together, let us make India COVID-19 free,” he said after taking the vaccine. Let us hope Modi’s preference and appeal drive confidence among the countrymen about the effectiveness of the vaccine and prompt people to come forward to take the vaccine.

It is surprising to note that while the second phase of nationwide inoculation drive began on Monday, the state government was yet to decide on which private hospitals would be allowed to administer the vaccines. The office of the state Health Minister has said that a meeting with the listed private hospitals will be held shortly. This could lead to delay in vaccination drive and allow the virus to proliferate. The state was already witnessing an increasing trend in COVID-19 cases of late. The Centre has released a list of 10,000 hospitals in the private sector, including 13 in Goa. Besides, the state is yet to complete the process of vaccination of the health care workers and frontline workers that was started earlier. Quite a good number of workers in both the categories are yet to be administered a second dose of vaccines. It would have been better if the authorities had allowed completion of the first phase before starting the second phase to ensure a seamless process. It remains to be seen how the authorities will manage the emergent situation.

India has managed to ward off the threat from the pandemic causing disease to some extent but the situation is not entirely under control. The authorities need to ensure that the fight against coronavirus is fought continuously. They had planned to inoculate three  crore frontline workers in the drive that began on January 16 but managed to cover 1.43 crore less than half of intended workers. Only 11 percent of those who took anti-COVID-19 shots opted for home-grown Covaxin, while the rest chose Covishield, developed by Oxford University and pharma giant AstraZeneca. Two more vaccines – Russia’s Sputnik-V and Cadila Healthcare’s ZyCov-D – are likely to be added soon. Around 30 crore people are projected to be vaccinated in the second phase that is to be completed by August. Even while the vaccination drive goes on, the authorities need to ensure that there was no let-up in guard against the virus and that people adhere to guidelines and remain vigilant against it to help the nation overcome the threat from the coronavirus.