India needs free mass vaccination


Initial vaccination hesitancy, if any, has now almost gone and as we all know that due to the arrival of the second wave, the ferocious variety of the COVID-19 mutant virus across many parts of the country, the general public genuinely and eagerly want to be inoculated, especially the eligible ones under the largest group that of between 18 to 45 years. Why should, therefore, there be no mass vaccination or each and every citizen vaccinated in the country is gaining more credence. In this connection, a group of opposition leaders including Congress President Sonia Gandhi, JDS leader and former PM- Deve Gowda, NCP Supremo Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena leader Udhav Thakery and TMC Supremo Mamta Banerjee have asked the Centre to launch a ”free mass vaccination drive” across the country. Joining them for a “national cause”, also include leaders like Akhilesh Yadav, Hemanta Soren, MK Stalin, Mayawati, Farooq Abdullah, Tejasvi Yadav, D.Raja and Sitaram Yechury. However, since as on date, except vaccination, modern science has found no other effective antidote to this virus, vaccinating more and more people, as early as possible, is the only alternative and the governments, both the Central as well as States/ UTs, must accord top priority to this issue. It is not that only in India demand for free vaccination and that too for everybody is raised, more for getting a protection from the virus than for any monetary gains, but in most of other countries like Japan, Russia, France and America too either as a state policy or otherwise, mass and free vaccination has been ensured. The call of 13 opposition leaders for mass vaccination drive has, as such, been necessitated looking to the mismatch of the demand from the people for total vaccination and the inadequate response there -from the Governments, both Central and States /UTs. It could agreeably be due to the fact that the capacity of indigenously production of the vaccines cannot cope with the huge requirements for such a population, for which the Government though decided to import vaccines from other countries including Russia should explore similar more measures. The same non availability in full measure of the vaccines can be found in respect of the kick starting of third phase which either has been sparingly introduced and that also in a few states or is delayed. We may reiterate that the lack of technical strength to respond to public health crisis on account of the COVID-19 pandemic by most of the States /UTs as witnessed last year, is unfortunately being seen this year too, and even the issue is being attended to and heard by the High Courts and even the Supreme Court, be it availability of oxygen, hospital facilities and vaccination etc. The need of the hour is that the issue of vaccination and the possibility of mass free vaccination be reviewed by State and UT Governments in totality to lessen the anxiety and the problems of the general public. However, the positive side of the issue is that most of the States have already announced free vaccination like Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Bihar , Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and many others, hence what is required is a total mutual understanding and cooperation between the states and the centre to go in for mass vaccination at reasonably sufficient number of designated vaccination centres across the country so that while undertaking the exercise by the medical staff, and the people visiting such centres it is ensured that less of crowding takes place to pre-empt any chances of breaching the COVID safety protocol. However, during the period of the vaccination drive, due caution needs to be taken that no laxity was allowed in providing timely treatment to the COVID patients, providing of more beds, arranging critical medicines, oxygen etc so that two pronged attack on the dreaded virus resulted in flattening of the worrying curve as soon as possible. At the same time, dealing sternly with black marketers, hoarders and undue profit making elements is very important as they are anti social elements taking advantage of a calamity of such a magnitude and also making the dedicated work of our COVID warriors and frontline workers difficult.