Though the Covid curve has been consistently dipping in the past couple of months in India, the pandemic is far from over. Vaccination promises to hold the key to a shift from the disease to protection from it and eventually herd immunity. All eyes are on the fast-tracked vaccines rolling out to the thousands of jab centres across the country that will start inoculating people on January 16. While some look at the exercise — the world’s largest, aiming to inoculate 30 crore people in the next few months — with scepticism, others are making an unseemly scramble to get the magical life-saving shots on priority. Not surprisingly, the latter lot comprises powerful politicians, bureaucrats and the rich, who, as always, feel entitled to privileged and preferential treatment.
This ugly race stinks of little care for the needy and vulnerable. Prime Minister Modi has rightly ticked them off against elbowing themselves to the front of the line out of turn. The microscopic virus which made no distinction between the affluent and the poor as it struck millions of people should have been a humbling lesson in the oneness of humanity. But alas! Luckily, such queue-jumping attempts made in many of the 50 countries that have initiated Covid vaccination have been rebuffed. The UK and Switzerland have initially authorised only the public health sector to give the injections and ensured strict compliance with the priority list of beneficiaries. As long as private profit is denied, buying out of the shots is a remote possibility.
As India puts into place the transportation, cold storage, distribution and monitoring of the vaccines, it must also simultaneously make widely public a clear set of rules on the ‘how, where and who’ of getting the jabs. The announcements and intentions of first prioritising the health and frontline workers, then the elderly and all those with morbidities and at high risk of infection, and later as the facilities are further scaled up, including the healthier individuals in the list sound good. The real test will lie in the efficacious implementation of the two-dose campaign.