THE news that the first batch of the Covid vaccine can be delivered by February next year will come as a relief for the country battling the pandemic. The Serum Institute of India, which is developing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, has also said that vulnerable groups like healthcare workers and the elderly will be given priority in administering it. While the outbreak of the disease saw the country unprepared to meet the exigency, the thrust on health infrastructure in the intervening period should help in preparing for a vaccination strategy and galvanising resources to cover the entire population. Along with identifying those who are more at risk, ensuring access, especially to the marginalised sections, will be important with the cost also being factored in.
The country does have a vaccination programme which is available at government and private hospitals and the feasibility of administering the Covid vaccine as part of it can be examined. Most vaccines are for diseases that are fatal, with the novel coronavirus being no exception. The government intends to make use of an app to digitise information about the procurement, distribution and immunisation schedule with a certificate being issued, much like the card in the case of the present immunisation programme.
There is increasing pressure on the Indian government to produce results as countries such as the US, Russia and China are making significant progress in their search for a vaccine. The report about the vaccine comes amid a resurgence of the virus in Delhi, even as states like MP, Gujarat and Rajasthan have clamped prohibitory orders to ensure compliance with precautionary measures. Delhi has even hiked the fine for not wearing a mask which, along with social distancing, has been advocated as the best way to ward off the disease. In the United States, President-elect Joe Biden has been seeking a mask mandate, which remains the cheapest alternative available to check the virus, instead of shutting down the economy. Prevention will remain a good option till a safe, effective cure becomes available.