INDIA’S Covid vaccination programme will enter a make-or-break phase tomorrow as all adults will become eligible for the jab. The second wave of the pandemic has adversely affected the young population in particular, necessitating the inoculation of people in the productive age group of 18-44 years. However, Phase 3 of the vaccination drive is likely to get off to a sluggish start in view of unresolved issues pertaining to vaccine supply and distribution in several states, including Maharashtra, Delhi and Punjab. The Shiv Sena-led government in Maharashtra has expressed its inability to initiate the rollout right away, citing unavailability of sufficient number of doses. In contrast, BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh has reportedly suspended ongoing inoculation for people aged 45 or above so as to keep adequate doses ready for the May Day launch.
Unfortunately, the slanging match between the Centre and Opposition-ruled states over vaccines is set to cast its shadow on the upcoming vaccination of all citizens above 18 years. Countering reports of vaccine shortage, the Union Health Ministry has said that more than 1 crore doses are still available with states and UTs and they would receive over 20 lakh more doses within the next three days. But this reassurance may not be enough to improve the situation on the ground unless the Centre and the states work in close coordination in public interest.
It is heartening to know that more than one crore people got themselves registered online, despite some technical glitches, for the third phase of vaccination within eight hours of the start of the process on Wednesday. This clearly shows that vaccine optimism is eclipsing hesitancy. As the infections are predicted to peak in May, it’s imperative that the inoculation should proceed at full throttle during the critical month. All gaps related to production, supply and distribution need to be plugged quickly so that maximum number of lives can be saved through vaccines. How the authorities perform under extreme pressure over the next few weeks will decisively shape the course of India’s grim battle against Covid-19.