Ujjain: The idea of vaccine basically originated hundreds of years ago in India. To ward off smallpox, people in ancient India used to inhale scrapping of scab of a diseased person. This was picked up by the Egyptians and was brought to France by the wife of a diplomat from Cairo.
Unfortunately, we neglected our heritage and ended up foundling with our Covid vaccine. If we would have financed our native vaccine developer, we would have been ahead in the world, but we missed the bus.
Simultaneously we kept on missing opportunities related to vaccine or control of disease as we were dwelling in the dreams that we have very well conquered corona.
Instead, what we got in vaccine policy is a bizarre combination of ruthlessness and managing the headlines.
1. First, there is a scarcity of vaccines and will be there for a long time because we did not get our capacity expansion and procurement contracts right.
2. Then you had the pandemic surge in some states, which raised
two questions: How much operational flexibility can be given to the states? And how much does it make sense to reallocate vaccines to states or districts where they are most urgently needed? These questions could have been easily resolved by a modicum of trust building. But instead, Government tried to cover up the scarcity and prioritisation question by managing the headline. Central Government unleashed a cutthroat competition between states on procurement of vaccines.
3. The demands of the states could have been resolved in better ways. Now some states will make the vaccines free. But there is a greater opportunity cost to the states doing this. They have less resources than the Centre. And there is high probability that they will divert money from other essential services.
4. While in India we have hardly vaccinated 10% of population. Government under pressure opened vaccination upto 18 plus year. If many people come for vaccination, then their number will come in many months and higher age group may lag exposing them to higher risk of Covid infection.
5. It is amazing to note that Finance Minister in her budget has allocated Rs 35,000 crore for vaccination. Government is purchasing vaccine at Rs.150/dose. We may add Rs.50/does as transportation etc i.e. Rs.200/dose. Thus, Central Government could vaccinate whole population free. Then the why Union Government asked the states to buy vaccine clearly the budget declaration was even also for headlines.
6. For managing the headlines & the desire to become world leader & world vaccination hub we gave seven crore vaccine doses to other countries when we ourselves are short of vaccine and we also did not allow import of vaccines.
7. We will also have to be prepared for booster dose of vaccine after one year [We don’t have confirmed reports up to what time immunity of Indian vaccines will last and after what time booster will be needed.
If we don’t anticipate booster dose requirement then the vaccination program will fail leading to another wave after an year.
RDG Medical College Ujjain