The onus of India’s inefficient vaccination drive
Allow me to take you back to the year 2020 for a moment. I know it is not the year anyone wishes to go back to but trust me for a while. Remember how we were sitting locked in our houses, wishing for the vaccines to come so everything would miraculously get better and we’ll get back our ‘old-normal’? Cut to May, 2021, we are still in another lockdown and this time the situation is even worse than it as ever before. So what happened? Did the vaccines not come or were they ineffective? Why did the miracle we were so desperately wishing for not happen? You know the answer to it and it is time we say it out aloud- the government’s inefficient, ill-planned and incompetent inoculation drive. Do not mistake this to be my attempt to vent about being in such an egregious position, think of it as a journey of uncovering our ignorance, faults, and half-hearted acknowledgements.
But before we dive deep into this failure, let me bring to your notice the history of vaccines in the country, which evidently is much different (read: better) than this one. The 4-decade experience with large scale immunization and the successful vaccination against polio brought great hopes in the hearts of people for this vaccination drive too. Yet, here we are. The states are struggling to maintain enough stock to vaccinate its people and well, we’re nowhere close to vaccinating our entire population. So before you decide to put the blame of this inefficient inoculation drive on the shoulders of India’s large population, recall you history and justify judiciously.
Let’s start at the very basic- Behavioural surveys. Before any large-scale action, it is imperative for the authorities to know how the people would respond to it. Pretty basic, right? Well, the government completely missed the action. Assessing the expected response and strategizing the drive accordingly would have saved not only the failed effort of the government in the beginning but also could have allowed the scope for the government to increase its horizons and change people’s perceptions. Especially because at the time when vaccine was rolled out, people in the country were scared, confused and distrustful about it. Creating awareness, addressing misinformation by allowing experts like scientists and professors to take the communication charge would have delineated a picture much different than we can see today.
And it’s not like India did not have good examples to look up to. Many countries are now winning over the COVID-19 virus due to their effective vaccine drives. Case in point- USA. Proper planning of targets and achieving those goals, assessing the present situation beforehand and taking action steps accordingly and altering supply rate per demand well in advance characterise where USA is today in its immunisation drive. As of April 2021, half of Americans had received their first vaccine dose and 30 percent of all adults were fully vaccinated. Oh, the people who have received both the dozes of the vaccine are no longer required to wear a mask, how amazing is that! Well, credit this amazing feat to the country’s effective management, efficient supply of vaccine throughout the country and timely scheduling.
As for India, the situation is rather grim. India terribly failed to manage efficient vaccine supply which resulted in creating differences among the poor and the rich, like the story of every time. The ill-managed supply has resulted in over buffering by the private sector. On one hand, the state governments are struggling to provide vaccines to their people while many private institutes are hoarding the vaccines and immunizing the people who are ready to pay huge sums of money for it. Resource inequality much?
Like the pandemic in the country, the misinfodemic also hit in two particularly devastating phases- the health misinfodemic and the communal misinfodemic. Oh wait, did I even tell you what a misinfodemic is? Well, back in 2020, WHO released a paper stating the term infodemic which refers to over-abundance of information. However, by then, India was deep into the pit of misinfodemic- the abundance of misinformation and well, we’re all quite aware of it. I mean when was the last time you heard your family member say this was all a political agenda? Not long ago, I’m sure. To state relevance, note that this misinfodemic was one of the primary reasons for the inefficient vaccination drive undertaken in the country. Too many options, a lot of confusion and well, abundance of mistrust- how else did you think we were at this failed position. Despite the government being well aware of this misinfodemic, no plausible steps like creating awareness through conversations with experts like scientists and professors, attempting to clear the misinformation or any credible little thing to help people trust the process more were taken. So, while the country had vaccines, the people were too sceptical to take them. And once people saw that the ones taking the vaccines were safe and healthy, they ran to get their doses, and well, now we’re out of vaccine doses. Remind me the definition of inefficient again?
The daily vaccination rate started with a great pace with nearly 4 million dozes per day in April but thanks to the poor management and insufficient supply, it has come down to half the rate it achieved in the month of April. The government started vaccinating the frontline workers and later started vaccinating the people above the age of 45. On May 1, the vaccination for people above 18 years of age started but it was later halted due to the shortage of vaccines in the country. Along with incompetent planning, unfulfilled promises were also major contributors to this havoc. It is because the government assured the young entrepreneurs of the country, under the Atmanirbhar Bharat scheme, to produce enough vaccine for the country and also for the purpose of exports. But as of yet, there has been no disclosure of the production schedule. There is a huge mismatch going on between the demand and supply of the vaccine. According to official data sources, a total of 200.1 million vaccination doses have been given as of 27 May. The ambitious goal of 5 million jabs per day sounds like a distant dream now that the country is suffering from this terrible shortage of vaccine.
We cannot say that the successful vaccination drive would’ve stopped the advent of the second wave of the virus but it certainly would’ve reduced the social, economic and practical impact of the catastrophe. The risen unemployment, the reduced household income averages, the slumped consumption- all point at long term tendencies of the economic nightmare awaiting us and had the government been more observant, planned and prepared, we wouldn’t have been having this conversation with hopelessness in our hearts.