The process of online registration for vax has to give way to house to house vaccination plan, as used to be the case earlier. We have enough trained manpower for this purpose.
Undoubtedly the current corona upsurge has caused unprecedented misery and suffering to our people and its adverse impact is visible everywhere. Normal life has been totally disrupted once again and our health care systems are struggling to cope with the surging corona infection numbers. This situation is further compounded by man-made shortages of oxygen , medicines, hospital beds etc. This pandemic has clearly taught a lesson to our system and governments that false promises, sloganeering and event management exercises to influence people, can take us only this far and no further. It is really unfortunate that a mammoth atamnirbhar country, like ours, had to seek help from other nations for all those essentials, which we make in abundance. With timely action this unprecedented crisis could have been easily averted and we could have avoided the tragic loss of innumerable innocent lives and hardships faced by millions of our countrymen.
As has happened in the past, no heads are going to roll for mishandling the present crisis nor is any one is going to show the moral courage to take the responsibility for the abysmal mess that we are in. So any talk about holding those responsible for the current mishandling, to account, has no meaning. What we can do is -to learn lessons from this pandemic and move forward.
The first and foremost lesson to learn is that let’s not delude ourselves that everything is fine. Let’s dump our chalta hai attitude, we have done nothing to improve our pathetic healthcare infrastructure during all these years except for few announcements made regarding opening of a few AIIMS like institutions, adding few more medical colleges, upgrading few hospitals to higher levels etc. These piecemeal efforts have led to the collapse of this tottering healthcare system when confronted with the current crisis, which is agonisingly in front of us. Looking at our humungous population, we need an AIIMS type super specialty hospital in almost every district. Simultaneously the medical education system must be made corruption free and revamped comprehensively to orient it to provide the requisite manpower for our requirements. These two things can be accomplished in three to four years time without any difficulty. It just requires determined political will and vision. Money was never in short supply earlier nor is it there today. The people running the system need to use all their skill, resources, persuasive power and experience to make it happen. Experts have been bemoaning about the non-existent healthcare infrastructure in our country for years but their counsel fell on deaf ears. This pandemic has exposed this naked truth not only to us but to people across the word. This is an embarrassment which we could have easily avoided.
Another disturbing issue is the recent media reports regarding threatening calls received by Serum Institute of India top echelon and shortage of vaccines reported from across the country. The Government needs to answer why it failed to work out the total requirement of the vaccines, failed to place order, monitor the supply and assess whether we will get the required doses in time . It is most unfortunate that people who had promised us delivery, are now sitting in London and talking about investing billions in UK. Who is responsible for allowing this situation to arise? Why did we fail to manage the vaccine manufacturing and supply position and also to place orders in time, as per our country’s requirements? According to media reports, there is bad news for our country as meeting the corona vaccine requirements is going to take months, as the supply of vaccine from other sources like Bharat Biotech and external sources, is not easy to ramp up, so soon. This situation has been compounded by the absurd policy decision regarding COVID vaccination programme. How can we have different rates of the vaccine for states and centre- when both cater to the same population only?
Secondly too much dependence on online registration system for vaccination has let down the nation as more than sixty percent population is neither connected online nor have the facility to have themselves registered. The sooner this policy is dumped the better it will be for our people. The experience of various countries has shown that the best way to control this pandemic is to vaccinate the population at the earliest. We have the resources and trained manpower to vaccinate our population in a few months time. For that to happen, first the vaccine production should be ramped up on a war footing so that in the next few months we can have the required number of doses available to vaccinate everyone above eighteen years of age.
Secondly, the process of online registration etc. has to give way to house to house vaccination system, as used to be the case earlier. We have enough trained manpower to start vaccination in every village and every municipal ward in urban areas. It is just the question of planning the whole operation meticulously and ensuring its execution. All the states have been running the universal vaccination programme for decades , and they have developed necessary infrastructure with a plan of action. Things just need to be upgraded efficiently to ensure that the covid vaccination programme is implemented without any glitch. Mass immunization is the way out of this pandemic. Any further delay in implementation of mass vaccination programme will cost the nation dearly. This pandemic has adversely affected all other ongoing vaccination programmes thus putting at risk lives of millions of infants below the age of six years. The door to door approach will not only ensure corona vaccination but also ongoing vaccinations also . The time has come to correct the mistakes in the current corona vaccination policy expeditiously.
(Vijay Shankar Pandey is former Secretary to Government of Indian