Vaccines are the buzzword when the world is moving through the end phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Up till now, vaccination has been a slow process, and we are way behind in protecting the population from the disease. With an improved vaccine distribution, a lot of nations are catching up and have ramped up their systems for the same. Even when vaccines are not controlled by the political and bureaucratic class, there must be a realization that there is a massive political motive inside the vaccine chain.
When will we finish the vaccination?
As per various reports based on the present rate of vaccination, Western Nations will reach the goal first. While Asian and African nations are way behind and even may not be able to finish it by the end of 20231. This is the big power divide. Those nations which are rich are able to produce or even procure vaccines for themselves. The developed nations develop the majority of the vaccines used across the globe. Only Russia, China, and India are the developing nations that have their own indigenously developed vaccines.
The important reason that all nations need to finish vaccination at the same time is that the virus and disease travel throughout the globe and there will be mutations as well. This will lead to the virus getting stronger and there are higher chances that the vaccines may not be effective in countering it. The Delta variant, which was first found in India, has now become the dominant strain across the globe. This is the imminent threat that we have across the globe.
Vaccination in India
India decided to vaccinate its frontline workers, doctors, etc in December. After that, the vaccines were made available to the common population, with priority being given to the elderly first. It was assumed that a lot of people will turn up to get vaccinated, but that didn’t happen. The turnout for the same was very less. Post that, the vaccination was opened for anyone above the age of 45, even before the rest of the slots were filled. A lot of vaccine wastage cases were reported across the country. The situation was not in control as the authorities had expected.2
The Central Government primarily controls the vaccination process. It controls whatever comes under development, procurement, fixing price, and the administration of the same. After that, the duty is handed over to the States to vaccinate the population, either from government vaccination centres or private healthcare centres. At the private centres, you will be charged per dose. The entire process had to be through the COWIN portal.
It was during the onset of the second wave that we realised that less than 1% of the entire population was fully vaccinated. There was a sudden increase in the demand for vaccines. The entire country reported a shortage of doses and bugs on the COWIN websites. The second wave made the government wake up to the reality that they had not done enough when there was time. The vaccination for everyone in the age of 18, were made eligible for the vaccine even when the rest of the population did not have access to it.
The entire vaccination policy proved useless and flawed. The second wave in itself is the best example for the same. On June 13th, PM Modi addressed the nation and called for centralised control of vaccine distribution across the nation. This aims to ensure a bit more emphasis on the government’s role in vaccinating and protecting the population.
Initially, the price was very low, and it was made affordable to the common people. There was a choice for people to choose between government or private vaccines Amidst the second wave, the Central government made controversial policy, which was differential pricing. The price for the same dose of vaccine was kept different for the centre, state and private. Also, the states were prompted to purchase costlier vaccines directly from open markets and distribute them for free. Also, the pricing was one of the highest in the world.3
Covaxin was developed by ICMR and funded by the Central government so that Indians would get a good vaccine and possibly at a cheaper rate. Today, the price of Covaxin is nearly double that of privately developed Covishield. The biggest vaccine manufacturer in the world itself is not able to succeed in providing vaccines to the people at the required rate and appropriate price.
PM Modi in his address to the nation slashed the vaccine rates, in a way to undo the previous mistakes and to ensure that the government can intervene for the better. He repeatedly used the term free vaccines to prompt big turnout and speed up the inoculation process.
Vaccinations across the globe
Western Europe, Japan, Australia and the US are way ahead in vaccination compared to the rest of the countries. Eastern Europe is performing below average compared to its other counterparts. African nations have recorded the lowest rate across the world. Both China and India are way ahead compared to the rest of the developing countries. Conservative populations inside western countries as well as those areas with weaker government control are witnessing increasing vaccination and opposition to vaccine mandates. Several of these countries are seeing a repeated surge in cases and an increase in deaths and hospitalisations. Vaccination is still a privilege in different parts of the world.
Lessons learnt and the way forward
The second wave is an eye-opener for the failed vaccine strategy followed in India. It is welcome that the governments have learnt it and corrected it. The idea of protecting people should move beyond party lines and also keep aside politics. Since mid-May, there has been a steady increase in vaccination that shows people are volunteering to come out to get inoculated. This is indeed a welcome move. India also has successfully administered 1 Billion shots, which is a great achievement in itself.4
With a third-wave predicated by experts using mathematical modelling, we see that children may be affected because they are not yet vaccinated. At the same time, there are millions in India who are unable to access the COWIN portal or even get a proper OTP in their mobile phones.5 The government must come forward with door-to-door registration and vaccination, especially for the elderly and backward classes. Vaccination in India has always been voluntary. There are people who cite myths and fake news to resist vaccination. No one is safe until everyone else is safe.6 There is no point if only a few countries are fully vaccinated while others aren’t.
We must ensure that everyone gets vaccinated and should make sure they are eligible to travel across the globe and lead a normal life. This will help us reach herd immunity and finish the process as early as possible before 2023. Vaccines are the only way to get out of this pandemic.
Belluz, Julia. “India and Poorer Countries May Wait Years for Covid-19 Vaccines as Rich Countries Hoard Them.” Vox, 29 Apr. 2021, www.vox.com/2021/4/28/22405279/covid-19-vaccine-india-covax. ↩
Sharma, Neetu Chandra. “Covid-19 Vaccine Wastage as High as 37% in Some States: Centre.” Mint, 25 May 2021, www.livemint.com/news/india/covid19-vaccine-wastage-as-high-as-37-in-some-states-centre-11621956664973.html. ↩
The Hindu BusinessLine. “Pricing Problems.” @businessline, 26 Apr. 2021, www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/editorial/vaccine-makers-cannot-be-grudged-their-profits-but-uniform-price-for-centre-states-is-called-for/article34416374.ece. ↩
Das, Krishna. “India Celebrates 1 Billion COVID-19 Vaccine Doses with Song and Dance.” Reuters, 21 Oct. 2021, www.reuters.com/world/india/india-celebrates-1-bln-covid-19-vaccine-doses-with-song-film-2021-10-21. ↩
Kaul, Rhythma. “‘Covid Vaccine Slot Glitches Because of Mismanagement by Staff, Not CoWIN.’” Hindustan Times, 1 June 2021, www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/covid-vaccine-slot-glitches-because-of-mismanagement-by-staff-not-cowin-centre-101622521672356.html. ↩
“Poll Reveals Who’s Most Vaccine-Hesitant in America and Why.” WebMD, 29 Apr. 2021, www.webmd.com/vaccines/covid-19-vaccine/news/20210429/poll-reveals-whos-most-vaccine-hesitant-in-america-and-why. ↩