Amid ominous prediction that the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic could strike India next month, there is an urgent need to step up the pace of vaccination drive, along with the enforcement of Covid-appropriate public behaviour, to minimise the impact. Learning lessons from the recent past, the State governments are now better prepared to handle any crisis. A slew of measures — adequate oxygen supplies, oxygen plants, additional wards in hospitals and oxygenated beds, separate arrangements for infants and children and stocking medical supplies and training doctors, nurses, and volunteers — have been put in place. On the inoculation front, however, the States have certain limitations. It is essentially the responsibility of the Centre to ensure that the vaccination targets are met. While the steady fall in the number of fresh cases and mortality rate is a welcome trend, the slow pace of vaccination is still a cause for concern. India needs to vaccinate a minimum of 60% of its population by December 2021 to tame the virus. This means that over 86 lakh doses need to be administered per day while over the past week, the vaccination rate has been 40 lakh a day, leading to a shortfall of 46 lakh. The official data suggests that about 35.43 crore vaccinations have been administered so far with 6.55 crore Indians being fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Till the vaccination targets are fully met, it is essential for people to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour to contain the virus spread. It is also important to overcome the vaccine hesitancy prevalent in some quarters.
Expanding the country’s vaccine basket holds a key to faster coverage. Though regulatory approval has been given for foreign vaccines like Moderna, there is still no clarity on the issue of indemnity clause, whose removal the American pharma giant had asked for. In its affidavit submitted before the apex court, outlining the vaccination timeline, the Centre noted that the drive would gather further momentum after August with the projected acquisition of 135 crore doses. Indigenous manufacturers, Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech, will continue to be the mainstay of the endeavour with the latter’s share estimated to go up three times. Both companies will need to ramp up production. As argued earlier, if foreign vaccine makers like Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson and indigenous manufacturers like Biological E and Zydus Cadila can join in quickly, it would boost the country’s efforts to overcome the pandemic. With experts warning that the virus is here to stay, the need to diversify the vaccine baskets and develop boosters to tame the new strains of the pathogen has acquired a sense of urgency. Already, India has lost precious time as it was caught in a flawed vaccination policy.
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