Expand vaccination drive

As the vaccination drive opens for all above 45 today, it calls for a reinforcement of the infrastructural facilities necessary to cater to the huge mass of beneficiaries now eligible for the jabs along with the 60-plus, who would also start queuing up duly for their second shot as their four-to-eight week period between the two doses closes in. While the government must be more aggressive in its vaccination approach, citizens have a crucial role. The more Indians step up, the quicker these gains will fructify.
Anyone above the age of 45 can now get a coronavirus vaccine in India. The wait for these doses began on March 2, 2020, when the outbreak was confirmed to have taken hold in the country. For most of the 162,981 lives lost (as on March 31, 2021) to Sars-Cov-2 since then, these injections would have meant a shot at survival. The correlation has been clear in countries such as Israel and the United Kingdom, where high per capita vaccinations have led to a sharp drop in not just fatalities but also hospitalisations in age groups given doses on priority. Real-world data reinforces what multiple clinical trials have shown repeatedly — the coronavirus vaccines are a safe and effective tool to combat the pandemic.
Hassle-free vaccination camps planned in such places as the police lines, educational institutions, prisons, offices and industrial complexes and allowing people to register themselves with any photo ID proof should help the targeted groups shed hesitancy and improve the vaccination rate. So should taking mobile vaccination centres to densely crowded marketplaces, bus stands, railway stations, etc. With Covid-positivity rising among the younger population — which is up and about and no longer confined to their homes — the government would do well to include them for the shots. It must seriously consider allowing all above 18 who are willing to take the jab.
Obviously, there’s a long way to go even for these initial phases. India’s massive population requires administering 40-50 lakh doses daily from the present 20 lakh for vaccinations to have a telling effect on Covid-related illness and morbidities.  SII’s plan to increase its output by 67% to produce 10 crore doses from May and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories’ reported capability to supply over 10 crore doses of Sputnik V per month suggest that 40 lakh daily doses is an achievable target.  After two weeks, Centre must review and further lower the age restrictions if capacity utilisation remains low. Ramping up sampling and testing of random people in crowded places and contacts of Covid patients is urgently needed to contain the virus. Only then can we avoid another lockdown.

- Prabhakar Purandare

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