Vaccine drive: On India's COVID-19 vaccine policy

Fine theories and good policies are often frustrated in their encounter with facts and implementation processes in the field. India’s COVID-19 vaccine policy, recently unveiled, must take care not to head that way, and make adequate allowances for ground realities that could render naught well-laid plans. With a definitive cure not yet available for COVID-19, vaccines present the world with the best strategy to slow the virus down in its tracks along with a measure of vested herd immunity, as SARS-CoV-2 rampages on. While it may not be the magic wand, vaccinating people will be the only known way of slowing the march of the virus, and every country, down to each county, must prepare for this massive exercise. As the U.K. and the U.S. began vaccinating their people, India has announced its plan and proposed line-up for COVID-19 vaccination, shortly after the Union Health Minister denied that the government had ever committed to COVID vaccination for all in the country. As per the government’s strategy, the vaccination is to be given first to health-care workers and then to people over the age of 50, with those over 60 given priority, based on the situation. This will amount to about 30 crore people. The voters’ list for the Lok Sabha and Assembly election polls has been set as the verifying document for the process. A new digital platform, Co-WIN, will be used for COVID-19 vaccination delivery, and about 1.54 lakh Auxiliary Nurse Midwives working on Universal Immunisation Programmes will be roped in as vaccinators, with more such field staff to be mobilised in collaboration with the States. Cold chain systems are to be strengthened across the country to deliver multiple doses.

As governments beef up the vaccination drive, they need to clear the fog on vaccine safety and efficacy among the people. With passing days, it will not be too much to expect from the government a detailed plan for vaccinating children and a break down of tasks down to the lowest governance rung, as counties in the U.S. have been doing. Unless the latter is done, a proper estimate of the true challenges of administering vaccines in the field will not be available, and being unprepared is a guarantee to coming undone. Vaccine hesitancy is a reality and the only way to counter that is to be open and honest about adverse effects and post-vaccination sequelae, if any, and make available relevant information in the public realm. In the past, in some States, vaccination programmes have suffered temporarily because of misinformation about adverse events following shots. In addition, in this case, long-term follow up of all who receive the vaccine is absolutely essential. For, therein lies the assurance that every one in the global line list is waiting for.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 7:33:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/vaccine-drive-on-indias-covid-19-vaccine-policy/article33339834.ece

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