Bending the curve

| Updated on April 12, 2021

With Covid cases surging, ramping up the vaccine effort is of utmost importance   -  Bloomberg

As UK, US have shown, saturation vaccination coverage is the way out. The Centre needs to up its game

India’s daily case load has doubled since April 1 to about 1.7 lakh. A death rate of a little over 0.5 per cent is hardly a consolation when the absolute numbers are rising. Amidst this surge, it is not surprising that a situation of seemingly comfortable vaccine availability about three weeks ago has turned into one of shortage in major Covid pockets. At that time, 40 million individuals had been vaccinated, while the amount dispatched to the States was perhaps close to double that figure. Now, the number of vaccinated individuals has crossed 100 million, with three to 3.5 million being vaccinated daily. This rate, while being impressive by world standards, is not good enough if 300 million individuals, the vulnerable group in terms of co-morbidities, are to be vaccinated twice by August. If about 500 million doses are required to be administered over the next 100 days for the remaining uncovered population (including the second dose for those who have got the jab already), India would need to ramp up both its vaccine output and vaccination intensity. The vulnerable population should be covered well before July-end, if India is to arrest the march of Covid. That would mean doubling the daily vaccination rate.

Meanwhile, vaccine politics has regrettably taken centre-stage diverting energies and attention from combating the main enemy — the pandemic spread. The Centre can set at rest doubts and quell the politics if only it is more transparent about the vaccine data. It should release data on production and dispatch to States on a regular basis and such dispatches should be tailored to the needs of individual States based on the pandemic spread. It is just as well that Sputnik V has received emergency use approval on Monday. The Centre should ramp up its orders on vaccine makers and sweeten the price if necessary for all players. Taking a leaf out of the Operation Warp Speed policy of the US, it should fund capacity increases, while encouraging a number of players in an even-handed way. While Zydus and J&J are waiting in the wings, the nasal spray/vaccine option being promoted by ICMR and Bharat Biotech, among other players, too deserves attention.

The current worrisome situation could have been avoided if only governments — at the States and the Centre — had not let their guard down after the peak in infections last September. People had turned complacent assuming that Covid was gone even as the West was grappling with the second wave. Vaccine hesitancy has proved to be a dangerous element in the mix scuppering the government’s plans. Yet, as the example of the US and UK show, saturation vaccination coverage is the best way to bend the curve now. Even as it tests, isolates and treats the infected, the government should up its game on vaccinations. We need a Teeka Utsav every single day for the next few months.

Published on April 12, 2021

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