It is consolatory to realise that Narendra Modi has decided to rectify, albeit partially, the miserable failure of his government in scientifically and effectively tackling Covid-19, a disease he himself described as the greatest disaster of the century. Modi had proudly announced that India had effectively checked the coronavirus which spread from Wuhan in China to the remaining parts of the world at the onset of 2020. Besides, India was applauded across the globe, including World Health Organisation, for exporting vaccines to countries adversely affected by the pandemic including the US and certain European countries. But the Prime Minister's complacence and pride were short-lived. India is now listed amongst the most Covid-affected countries against all assumption and calculations otherwise. This happenedwhen China, which detected the first case of the virus, has effectively curbed its spread. The daily caseload in India rose to 4,14,280 and the death toll to 4529. By then, several companies had launched several vaccines under different names with the approval of the World Health Organisation.
India succeeded in easing lockdown and resuming normalcy in public life after the first wave of the pandemic subsided and daily caseload went down. However, we were overwhelmed by the stronger second wave. The calculations of both the Central and state governments proved false. The number of Covid patients in the capital city of Delhi went up drastically. Even corporate hospitals failed to handle the large influx of Covid positive patients. Hospitals struggled to ensure oxygen for their serious patients. Though India tried hard to cover it up it all came up for the world to view in shock as bodies piled up in the Ganga and on the roads. The explanations or reasons of the NDA government convinced nobody. Accusations of criminal negligence against the Central government were not limited to the media or the opposition but spread into the BJP and RSS. Several High Courts came out strongly against the centre. The practicality of the proposition that the Centre and state must bear half the cost of the vaccines was challenged. Eventually, the matter of vaccine pricing reached the Supreme Court. The Court demanded to know how the 35,000 crores set apart in the central budget was being utilised and to explain why this cannot be used to freely vaccinate the 18-44 age group. It is following the criticism from all sides that the Narendra Modi government came up with a policy correction.
As per the new policy, the Central government would provide all in the 18-44 age group with free vaccines. The quota for states would be decided on the basis of population, Covid positivity rate, vaccine efficiency and pace of use. The distribution would begin in two weeks starting on June 21. There is big of hope for Kerala in the new vaccine policy as Kerala has been vaccinating everyone free of cost on a priority basis without wasting a single dose. CM Pinarayi Vijayan has announced that the state has withdrawn the 1000 crore order placed with private companies.
However, until June 7, only 3.7 per cent of India's total vaccination has received both doses of vaccine so far. In Kerala, this is 8.1 per cent. It is still a question mark as to when the entire remaining population could be vaccinated even after setting aside the under-18 population. Health experts have warned that the third wave of Covid-19, expected to hit early next year, would mostly affect children, implying that we cannot put off the vaccination of the under -8 population indefinitely. Furthermore, the vaccine can only reduce the chances and intensity of infection but not entirely eradicate it. In short, the population must be prepared to accept and live with Covid-19 and all the precautionary measures to counter it. Extending the lockdown indefinitely would be detrimental to the economic, employment and education streams. The responsibility of both recovery and solution to the economic impact too rests with the government.