Open vaccination for all

With the daily Covid caseload crossing the 1.25-lakh mark, India is deep in the throes of the second wave of the pandemic. Considering how last year’s nationwide lockdown wreaked havoc on millions of lives and livelihoods, another such sledgehammer blow is ruled out, even as states such as Maharashtra, Punjab and Delhi have started reimposing restrictions — night curfew, partial shutdown, ban on gatherings — in a desperate bid to contain the virus. It’s clear that all-encompassing vaccination holds the key to arresting the slide. While the Centre has so far confined the inoculation drive to frontline health workers, the elderly and the middle-aged, the vulnerability of young people has been underlined by The Tribune report which says that around 13 per cent of the Covid fatalities in the tricity (Chandigarh-Mohali-Panchkula) since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020 were below 45 years.

The rate of vaccination needs to be improved drastically. The slanging match between the Centre and non-BJP-ruled states over alleged irregularities in vaccination and vaccine supply is deplorable. Political one-upmanship amid a health emergency will only worsen the situation. Enhancing the production of approved vaccines is the need of the hour. The Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer, has sought a grant of around Rs 3,000 crore to ramp up Covishield production capacity. The Centre should have no hesitation in opening its coffers for this life-saving venture. It’s also imperative to fast-track emergency use authorisation for other vaccines, such as Sputnik V. The Russian Direct Investment Fund has tied up with Indian firms to manufacture 700-750 million doses of this vaccine. Timely go-ahead to Sputnik V can give a fillip to India’s inoculation programme.

The importance of Covid-appropriate behaviour can’t be overemphasised. Even as five phases of the eight-phase West Bengal elections are still left, political parties should be penalised for holding ‘superspreader’ congregations in states that are not poll-bound. Punjab has imposed a ban on such gatherings now, almost a month after top politicians started holding rallies across the state. Social and religious assemblies should also be a strict no-no for the time being. 

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