A Billion Doses of Hope & Determination, says Political Analyst Sujata Pandey
India and China are the only two countries with a population in the billions. But the demographic density of India is far greater than her neighbouring country, which meant that the authorities of the nation had to take extra precautions in dealing with the spread of COVID 19.
As the process of lockdowns and quarantining began in early 2020, the government faltered with its rushed attempts at crowd control. The migration of labourers across state and city lines, and their dismal treatment at the hands of the police and the government, made national news. The PM of the nation was criticised and ridiculed for his soft pedalling of the issues, and lack of communication about the socio-economic plans made to combat this unprecedented situation.
The world spent a while in bated breath, as the research for vaccines received funding from various directions. Death by COVID 19 became a standard truth, and masks and hand sanitizers became habitual companions.
It is only in January 2021 that the world saw the release of different vaccines to be publicly distributed through the CoWIN dashboard. India began her own vaccination drive with the nationally developed COVAXIN, and the Oxford developed COVISHIELD.
The vaccine drive was mired in controversy, as claims of misappropriation arose from different places.
Fraudulent camps were set up in various areas to benefit from people's paranoia about the new disease, and take advantage of the vaccine shortage that the nation faced. Added to that, India fell into the clutches of the second wave of the pandemic right as the drive started.
With an immense population, India was already facing an uphill task in handling the situation, which was exacerbated by the inefficiency and opacity of the bureaucratic system. In the middle of 2021, with death rates surging, and vaccines in low supply, much of the nation's hope seemed completely lost.
However, against all odds, India's vaccination drive is set to cross the 1 billion mark soon. In the context of such an uncertain situation, this is indeed a pioneering achievement for the nation and its people.
According to the official government reports of COVID 19, almost 980 million people have already been vaccinated, and the death rate has stemmed significantly.
So, how did India bounce back from its initial tardiness? It is perhaps worthwhile to quote noted media panelistSujataPandey in response to this question. She states, 'For such a humongous crisis, you cannot put the blame on one government, or any single person and demand a solution from them... (A)s citizens we need to educate ourselves of our rights... And right now, we all need to practise safety as a citizen, (and) we should take the vaccination as self mandatory.'
In this she is spot on, identifying the need for survival and a healthy life that exists in every citizen of the country. While the government of India certainly deserves plaudits for working through an increasingly complicated situation, the true success of the vaccination drive rests on the people who make up the nation, and their desire to see the crisis through.
But work still remains to be done. Although the number of doses covered seems huge, only 20% of India's huge population has had both the doses, as opposed to 50% of people with a single dose of vaccination. Experts have stated that it is necessary for people to get both the doses in order to stand a chance against the constantly mutating virus.
The other necessity is an intensive vaccination drive for children, especially with schools reopening in many different states. Although vaccination has been more uniform in smaller states like Lakshadweep, Sikkim and Ladakh (over 40% of fully vaccinated people) they are all above the age group of 18. In bigger states like West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Bihar, UP, the coverage of second doses is between 17% to 25% of the adult population.In rural areas as well there is a significant disparity in the coverage of second doses as opposed to the first one.
So although 1 billion doses of vaccine doled out to the population of India seems like a high water mark, in between the creases of its statistics there is a worrying trend of inconsistency. The number of fully vaccinated people is surprisingly low in terms of internal population, as well as in comparison to other nations. The vaccination of children needs separate attention, and the second dose has to be distributed with more impunity.
India has a long road to follow to reach a completely COVID free future. While the work so far has been commendable, both the authority and the citizens need to become aware of their responsibilities in relation to the advocacy and acceptance of vaccination.