The study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) attributing lower Covid mortality among Indians to the anti-tuberculosis vaccine BCG, while indicating the country’s success in its immunisation and disease eradication programme, is also a manifestation of the uncertainty surrounding the protocol for treating the coronavirus. Ever since the Covid-19 outbreak, the methods of treatment have continuously been revised, with drugs like remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine, once prescribed, now said to be ineffective along with the plasma therapy. The ICMR will have to come up with more conclusive proof about the effectiveness of the BCG vaccine, which is generally administered to the newborns, and also clarify about what happens to the trial of Covaxin, which it began at various centres across the country along with Bharat Biotech. With the trial of other vaccines for Covid-19 also currently underway, some of which are from other countries, the government will have to spell out how it plans to manufacture and distribute them.
The vaccine for Covid-19 is threatening to become a part of populist politics in the country, with the BJP promising free vaccination in Bihar. A National Covid Immunisation Plan was formulated under which the Centre planned to directly procure the vaccine for the states, with priority groups such as health workers and those with co-morbidity to get it for free. But the Centre will have to ensure that non-BJP-ruled states or groups opposed to it are not discriminated against. With the government mulling the Aadhaar system for the distribution of the vaccine, more specific instructions will be needed as government and private hospital rates vary for vaccination.
With the warning of a second wave during the winter, precautionary measures are needed along with preparedness, which was found wanting when the outbreak was first reported. Also, the WHO needs to improve coordination with the health bodies of various countries to achieve the common goal of containing Covid-19.