As the vaccination drive opens for all above 45 today, it calls for a reinforcement of the infrastructural facilities necessary to cater to the huge mass of beneficiaries now eligible for the jabs along with the 60-plus, who would also start queuing up duly for their second shot as their four-to-eight week period between the two doses closes in. The authorities — including in Punjab, which is in a vice-like grip of the deadly coronavirus — have done well to energise the inoculation campaign by expanding the vaccination sites and easing the bottlenecks in the process.
Hassle-free vaccination camps planned in such places as the police lines, educational institutions, prisons, offices and industrial complexes and allowing people to register themselves with any photo ID proof should help the targeted groups shed hesitancy and improve the vaccination rate. So should taking mobile vaccination centres to densely crowded marketplaces, bus stands, railway stations, etc. With Covid-positivity rising among the younger population — which is up and about and no longer confined to their homes — the government would do well to include them for the shots. It must seriously consider allowing all above 18 who are willing to take the jab. For, crucial to tackling the pandemic is making the largest numbers immunogenic to the virus in the shortest possible time so as to break the chain of transmission.
Simultaneously, the authorities need to stay focused on and constantly review the efforts to check the spread of the rapidly escalating cases of Covid-19 infections and deaths. Driven largely by the highly transmissible UK variant of the coronavirus that has struck the country, the surge has given rise to a grave situation. Any laxity or complacency in following the Covid-appropriate behaviour at both the individual and institutional (both government and private) levels is fraught with serious repercussions. Irresponsible actions have the potential to spin our hard-pressed health system out of control. Ramping up sampling and testing of random people in crowded places and contacts of Covid patients is urgently needed to contain the virus. Only then can we avoid another lockdown.