The catastrophic second wave of Covid-19 in India has shaken the government and the public to the core and is engulfing them with despair, deaths, and crowded burials and cremations. What went wrong with the vaccination policy in India? How did the country which was a global vaccine powerhouse is experiencing a dearth of vaccines and struggling to vaccinate its citizens?
PM Modi, on January 29th during his speech at the Davos Forum said that the country had won the war on Covid-19 something he repeated in the Parliament a week later. Since then, the mass gathering, crowded election rallies, and festivals have led to the surge of Covid-19 in India.
Earlier India has two domestic producers who were the major suppliers of the vaccine – Serum Institute of India(SII)and Bharat Biotech. They were not given advance payments and grants to start manufacturing the product. We cannot expect the companies to supply the vaccine to the whole country without any prior payments as such.
By December 2020, although SII has already offered 10 crore shot rates at a discount for domestic use, the government fell short in placing advance orders even though a national target to vaccinate the vulnerable population of 30 crores by July 2021.
The vaccines can be bought by the state governments and private hospitals directly from the manufacturers and they have to pay a higher price. By asking states to procure the vaccine directly might lead to the blame-shifting to the shoulders of the state. This is a liberalized strategy where the private hospitals are getting vaccine supplies at high rates.
Srinath Reddy, a public health expert, fears that it’s now a “seller’s” market, where the poorest Indians are likely to be last in line.
There will be a hike in prices put forth by private hospitals as No Fixed Price range is given to them.
According to virologist Jameel, more thought should have been given to sustain both exports and domestic demands.
India started to vaccinate people from 18-44 years old from May 1. The app is unable to handle the number of registrations and there is an acute shortage of vaccines leading to the closing of vaccination centers. The long-standing queues outside the vaccination centers are also contributing to the surge of Covid-19 positive cases.
The supply is nowhere close to the target and India has imported Sputnik V ( from Russia) which will be rolled out in June hopefully.
Mass vaccination is a high priority for India but there are also other things which is the need of the hour. The under-resourced health infrastructure and the affordability of Indians living in poverty and their limited access to amenities need to be solved as early as possible to tackle the situation.