Politics on vaccines and vaccination in India is now a reality. The statement made by the Chief Minister of Delhi that the state can vaccinate all its people within three months if allowed by the Centre and if vaccines are made available, is indicative of some sort of politics being played on the people of India. People are kept on tenterhooks, and are swinging between hope and frustration, on account of very slow rate of vaccination due to hosts of reasons ranging from incapacity of our healthcare system, vaccine hesitancy, and of course the politics. In the meantime spike in new COVID-19 cases has threatened a second wave in the country.
Just before the launch of vaccination drive Prime Minister himself had hinted at some sort of politics while warning Chief Ministers of some groups in action might derail India’s vaccine drive, though he did not reveal the identities of any of such groups. Much water has flowed in the Yamuna between the warning of the Prime Minister then and the latest statement of the Chief Minister of Delhi now. The speed of inoculation remained painfully slow, despite India’s deployment of its two vaccines – Covishield of Serum Institute of India (SII) and Covaxin of Bharat Biotech. The first is developed in association with Oxford, and produced abroad by the name Oxford-AstraZeneca. Covaxin is purely indigenous.
The problem of vaccine supply, logistics, and its availability has been partially solved by allowing participation of private hospitals. It is in reality, a strategic shift from Government hospitals to private hospitals, which has also been officially declared. We still need sufficient supply of vaccines to inoculate the whole population. Why India should stick to only the two vaccines? Many vaccines are available globally, and the India’s kitty of vaccines may be expanded by facilitating their imports and speeding up their approval process to ensure much more vaccination per day. The promising foreign vaccines, such as Russia’s Sputnik-V having Indian partner, Covax, and others from various countries, may be included in Indian kitty of vaccines, if found efficacious in Indian context.
India must focus on making vaccines available to all its citizens and desist from any narrow politics, since it is the only way we can successfully fight with COVID-19. The centre and states, especially ruled by opposing political parties, must not create hurdles in each other’s way obstructing smooth vaccination of all in shortest possible time. The drive must not be allowed to become the victim of domestic and global politics.