Beating Covid-19: A Collective Responsibility
India’s ambitious vaccination drive against Covid-19 that began around 200 days ago has its hits and misses. The Central government initially received brickbats with many states claiming shortage of vaccines; then the government’s procurement policy of vaccine didn’t quite work because of which it was later pulled back. Widespread vaccine hesitancy fuelled by rumours and misinformation didn’t help the drive either. The drive has picked up pace of late but it’s a long way to go before reaching the finishing or safe line. As on August 24, only a total of 45.61 crore people or about 33.78% of the country’s total population have received at least the first dose, while the percentage of adult population that has been fully vaccinated is just 14.13%. Apart from low vaccination rate, there are a few disturbing trends such as the disproportionate number of vaccines being administered to men and women. According to government data, about 895 women have been vaccinated for every 1,000 men, which is lower than India’s sex ratio of 924 females for every 1,000 males. There is also a huge gap in vaccination coverage between states and union territories, with Bihar recording only 26% as on August 23 while Lakshadweep has registered 97.6%. At 36.8% coverage, Nagaland is at the bottom five in the country in terms of vaccination and at the bottom in the Northeast, with Sikkim topping the chart with 96.8% vaccination, followed by Tripura at 79%, and Mizoram 71.9%. It is encouraging to see the success of vaccination drive in some states. However, the pandemic can be curbed only if all the states pull up their socks and speed up vaccination. This calls for an urgent need for states like Nagaland that have poor coverage to accelerate the pace. But then, the onus also lies on the general public. The people should shed vaccine hesitancy and come forward to take vaccine in order to fight the virus successfully.
This was also highlighted in the recent report of an expert panel set up by the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) under the Ministry of Home Affairs. The report, which has been submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office, emphasised on the need to ramp up the pace of vaccination, warning of an imminent third wave of coronavirus that could hit India between the month of September and October. The panel has warned that India could witness up to six lakh daily Covid cases during the next wave if vaccination rate isn’t increased. Citing poor paediatric facilities in the country, it said that children could have a similar risk as adults in case of a third wave. Everyone should join hands to avoid another devastating scenario. It’s a collective responsibility. The Centre and state governments, as well as the public, should take health experts’ warnings seriously and take necessary measures like ramping up of vaccination and health facilities to counter a possible third wave. History could repeat itself sooner than expected if complacency creeps in like last year before the second wave caught the country unawares. Now, the race is between the virus and human’s proactiveness.