India has reached a commendable milestone by vaccinating 50 per cent of the ‘eligible’ population with at least one dose of the vaccine. According to the government, based on the projected mid-year count for 2020, the total population of the country aged 18 years and above is approximately 94 crore. On Thursday, India completed administering 47.29 crore first doses, past the half-way mark. This is quite a significant achievement, given the size of India’s population, as well as the geographic, logistical and financial challenges involved.
However, this does not mean that India’s vaccination strategy has been on the mark, nor does it imply that the country can afford to ease its vigilance as far as Covid is concerned. For starters, the ‘eligible’ population part is somewhat misleading. The rise of the Delta variant and reports of a ‘Delta-plus’ variant, both of which have been known to infect children in a significant way, calls for a rethink of our existing vaccination strategy so far, as well as a more nuanced strategy going forward, allowing for greater regional and situation-based variations.
Since experts have warned that an impending third wave of Covid infections could disproportionately impact children, the authorities may have to rethink not allowing vaccinations for those aged below 18 years. At the moment, at the overall population level, we have managed to fully vaccinate just 10 per cent of the population and cover barely a third with at least one jab.
Meanwhile, the rise of variant strains poses fresh challenges. Kerala, for instance, has managed to administer at least one dose to over 59 per cent of the population, but is still accounting for one of the highest number of cases in the country. As more vaccines get approval and availability improves over the coming months, India needs to rethink its existing vaccine strategy. Reducing the vaccine gap between two doses, doing away with the age barrier in at-risk areas, as well as following a more intense drive in states with low seropositivity could all form part of a more nuanced approach to combat the virus.
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