Wednesday, December 1, 2021
EditorialsEditorial: Jab well done

Editorial: Jab well done

Published: 22nd Oct 2021 12:05 am | Updated: 21st Oct 2021 11:52 pm

Reaching the one billion dose milestone in the vaccination drive is a laudable feat for India, given the initial hiccups and confusion over the inoculation policy, but the optics of the event should not lull the authorities into complacency. There is still a long way to go to ensure complete safety for the people and prevent a possible third wave. No doubt it is remarkable for any country to touch the one-billion-mark in just over nine months since the launch of the inoculation drive. This feat would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of the entire health and frontline workforce. The multi-disciplinary response from scientists has been commendable. Three-quarters of adults in the country have had one shot and around 30% are fully vaccinated now. The drive, which began on January 16, had faced numerous hurdles, including cold chain bottlenecks, vaccine hesitancy among some sections of society and a devastating second wave of the pandemic. The significant milestone comes months after a huge spike in cases in April and May, when more than four lakh infections and 4,000 deaths were reported per day and the country’s health infrastructure was overwhelmed. The cases have now sharply fallen, with fewer than 15,000 infections per day, and most activity has returned to normal. Even as India celebrates the milestone of 100 crore doses, the challenge is not yet over. Countries like the United Arab Emirates, Portugal and Singapore have fully vaccinated more than 80% of their citizens and are at the top position in terms of fully vaccinated population.

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There is a need to learn lessons from the initial goof-up in the national inoculation policy. Frequent changes in vaccine procurement, distribution, prioritisation and pricing policies, which occurred between April and June, created challenges in Centre-State coordination. Lack of clarity on the private sector’s capacity to deliver vaccines beyond the metros resulted in a larger than realistic role assigned to it. However, order and efficiency were restored when the Central government resumed its role as the sole agency procuring vaccines from domestic and global manufacturers. Investing in domestic manufacturing capacity, permitting globally approved vaccines that were cleared by credible foreign regulators and direct Central procurement and distribution helped overcome supply constraints. Though manufacturing was slow initially due to the US government’s export restrictions on raw materials and ancillary equipment, it was overcome through diplomatic interventions. The manufacture of vaccines was scaled up by enabling more production centres. Development partners, including UN organisations, played a supportive role in assisting in supply chain logistics, training and vaccine confidence campaigns. Civil society organisations and the private sector also pitched in to craft a collective response to the pandemic.

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