Some days ago, I had explained the failure of governance that created a scarcity of vaccines in India leaving millions vulnerable to the severe effects of COVID-19. Today, I would like to address the Modi Government’s floundering vaccination programme.
Data gathered from around the world clearly shows that vaccination is an effective tool for the management of the pandemic. Countries that have vaccinated a significant percentage of their population have faced a milder second wave than those that have not.
India’s second wave had 320% more cases than the first wave. This is the highest percentage increase from one wave to the next in the world.
So how did this situation come about in a country that had plenty of experience in rolling out vaccine programmes? Why is it that only 12% of our population has received the first dose of the COVID vaccine and only 3.4% of our population has been fully vaccinated so far?
In his Independence Day speech in 2020, the Prime Minister had declared that his government was ready with a vaccine roll out plan to cover every single Indian within the year. But by April 2021, as the second wave hit us, he had done a complete U-turn. Instead of taking full responsibility to vaccinate all Indian citizens, his government began to systematically pass the buck to state governments.
In fact, the Modi Government’s vaccination policy is guided by a series of confused decisions that have rendered it sluggish and ineffective.
• Until the 1st of May, 2021, the Modi government had only ordered 34 crore vaccines out of the 200 crores needed to vaccinate all Indians. • Seeing that there were not enough vaccines to go around, the Modi Government subsequently compelled State Governments to float their own tenders for vaccines. Companies like Pfizer and Moderna however, refused to supply to State Governments. • Having declared that vaccinations would be open for the 18 – 45year age group, the Modi Government saw a decrease of 83% in the rate of vaccinations due to unavailability of vaccines. Instead of doing all it could to correct this deficit, it conveniently passed the responsibility to vaccinate this age group to the state governments. • Instead of ensuring a uniform price of vaccines for all Indians, the Modi Government acquired vaccines for Rs. 150 while the same vaccines were sold to State Governments for Rs. 400 and to private hospitals for Rs. 600. • The registration process for vaccinations has been made so tedious that it impedes the pace of the vaccination programme. 60% of India’s population does not have access to the internet. Many Indian citizens still do not possess the mandatory Aadhar or Pan cards required for registration. The government has done nothing to simplify the process for such people and include them in the vaccination effort. It almost appears to have created such a complicated process as a cover up for the vaccines it failed to order. • The current pace of vaccination averages at 1.9 million vaccinations per day. In order to vaccinate all Indians by December 2021, the government needs to vaccinate a minimum of 7-8 million people per day. The Modi Government is answerable to the people of India for its directionless vaccination programme. ‘ Why did the Modi Government abdicate the responsibility to vaccinate all Indians? Why has it compelled State Governments to issue tenders of their own and compete with each other to vaccinate their respective populations? Why couldn’t vaccines have been issued fairly and transparently to all states? ‘ Why has no step been taken to bring down vaccine prices and follow a “One Nation, One Vaccine Price” policy? ‘ How does the Modi Government propose to vaccinate all Indians by the end of 2021 when it has neither procured enough vaccines, nor created a clear and effective strategy to vaccinate the entire population? How will it protect us from an imminent third wave?
‘ Why has the government not made provisions to include the portion of our rural population that does not have access to the internet in the vaccination effort? Does it not believe their lives matter?