India will enter a decisive phase in its battle against Covid-19 with the rollout of the vaccination drive three days from now. Prime Minister Narendra Modi underlined its importance by chairing meetings over the last couple of days, with bureaucrats and chief ministers. There have been three dry runs till now and India is set for its biggest ever vaccination drive. In the first stage, about 30 million frontline and healthcare workers will be vaccinated, a scale that is commensurate with the annual Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP).
The UIP experience, along with data from electoral rolls, will be critical in ramping up. The government says that following healthcare workers, another 270 million handpicked people will follow. The second phase is expected to be dominated by people aged 50 and above, and a younger cohort battling co-morbidities. To begin with, the vaccination drive will be led by the two vaccines that have received regulatory approval. Other candidate vaccines undergoing clinical trials in India may soon expand options available. Additional options should also include access to market-priced vaccines as that will make for faster progress towards herd immunity, and also permit the government to concentrate resources on people who need it.
Public expenditure on the vaccination drive should be seen as spending with social and economic benefits. It’s a prerequisite to normalise functioning and get the economy back on track. Therefore, it’s important to get things right in this phase. The digital vaccine delivery management system, Co-WIN, will be an important tool to keep track of progress. With the available vaccines requiring two doses with a lag in between them, information management will be key to getting it right. It’s time for the Centre and states to put political differences aside and come together in a common cause, with only the good of citizens in mind.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
END OF ARTICLE