The rollout of the Covid vaccine on March 1 for a vulnerable segment — above 60 years of age and those with certain ailments in the 45-59-year age bracket — marks the crucial second phase of the vaccination programme, putting to test the government’s claims of preparedness. The chaos and glitches seen on Day One can be attributed to teething troubles of a massive operation. The government facilities (providing the shots free of cost) and private players roped in (at a cost of Rs 250 per dose to a beneficiary) to cover the huge population have the challenging task of quickly ironing out the creases. All those queuing up to get the jabs, like the socially responsible elderly section of our population often accompanied by their younger attendants, should not be inconvenienced. The problems plaguing the government’s CoWin portal for registration or the confusion over walk-ins are a setback to the careful logistics set in place.
At the same time, the initial response is a pointer to better acceptance of the vaccine. This is in contrast to the hesitancy seen in phase one when only around 60 per cent of the healthcare and frontline workers came forward to get the vaccine. That Prime Minister Modi was among the first to get the indigenous Covaxin shot is a big endorsement to the drive. The government needs to ensure that the enthusiasm of people sustains. If the hesitancy persists, it may allow the younger ones to take the vaccine alongside for its optimal use, as also prevention of waste of resources.
Given that over 10 crore people across the country are targeted to be given the shots in this phase, on its smooth run hinges a faster road to the much-needed herd immunity. The recent spike in Covid-19 cases has sparked a renewed urgency to control the run of the pathogen before it balloons into a second wave. The inoculation must outpace the virus.