The beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic is at last near. The much-awaited nation-wide inoculation drive to insulate people against the virus is to be rolled out on January 16. The decision was made at a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last Saturday. Modi has called the proposed vaccination rollout ‘a step forward in fighting Covid -19’.
As expected, priority will be given to the three crore healthcare workers and others, who are engaged in the fight against the pandemic and ensure that people take due care to prevent its spread. Doctors, nursing staff, the police, etc., will naturally be first in the queue for the life-saving jabs. What is more, the vaccine for them will be completely free of cost.
Next in line will be those over 50 and those below 50 with co-morbidities. As many as 30 crore Indians are expected to be given the jab in the first phase. The entire process of vaccination registration, administration, monitoring , etc., is being digitised, with real-time information on its progress. Potential beneficiaries will be able to register themselves online on a soon-to-be-launched app, with their Aadhaar number, and receive information about the location and time of their vaccination. Post-vaccination, feedback will be sought to monitor the effect of the vaccine, and make due amends if deemed necessary.
The state administrations may also hold vaccination camps in cities, towns and small 'kasbas'. The two vaccines, one from the Pune-based Serum institute of India and the other, from the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, are to be used in the first stage of the programme. The SII has said that it is ready with 50 million vaccines. Both vaccines can be stored even in household refrigerators. Both are two-jab vaccines. And lest the superstitious have any doubts, the Drug Controller General of India has yet again certified that both vaccines are ‘110 percent safe’.
It is now for the civil society activists, NGOs, influential people in various walks of life such as films, sports, education, arts and culture to use their good offices to fight superstition and persuade people to take the life-saving two jabs. This is necessary not only for their own safety but others as well, who might come in touch with them. Besides, only if at least a third of the population is inoculated is there a chance of India attaining herd immunity.
For life to get back to the pre-Covid normal, for the economy to regain momentum, it is important that the ghosts of the pandemic are buried deep and fast. Cooperation of the people in making the vaccination programme a success is essential. Hopefully, the opposition and the usual anti-Modi elements will curb their zeal to play spoilsport and desist from thwarting what is a national mission of great importance to the health, and even wealth of the people.