Light In The Gloom: India Opens Up Vaccination For All Above 18 From 1st May!

The Government of India has announced opening up of the vaccination drive to all persons above the age of 18 with effect from 1st May 2021; this momentous decision coming after a marathon meeting by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with doctors, medical scientists and experts on 19th April 2021, significantly the day that saw the highest ever rise in new daily COVID-19 cases to the tune of over 2, 73,000. An important aspect of a liberalized format under this decision is that the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers can sell 50% of their doses to the Government of India and the rest 50% doses to the Indian states directly in the open market. This effectively means that all the states can now purchase vaccine doses directly and can prioritize how and to whom they would want the jabs administered. The concerned pharmaceutical firms have said that they would come with the pricing within the deadline of the 1st of May.


In view of the acute shortage of vaccine doses in several states and the constant denial by the central government, the Phase-3 of the COVID-19 vaccination drive is going to be a huge challenge as it would require to vaccinate nearly 70% of India’s 1.35 billion population in as quick as possible a time frame, and it is set to be the biggest vaccination drive ever seen on planet earth.  Three developments can somewhat alleviate the huge ask: first, approval to Sputnik-V by which direct import of doses from Russia and local production will make doses available from May 1; second, credit line by the Government of India of Rs. 3000 Crores to Serum Institute of India and Rs. 1500 Crores to Bharat Biotech to ramp up production of Covishield and Covaxin respectively, and the Union Finance Ministry is going to sanction the funds which will be disbursed by the Union Health Ministry; and that the Government would welcome the entry of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines into India. Better late than never, that is all we can say at this dark hour.


Meanwhile, the national capital Delhi has announced a 6-day continuous and total curfew (lockdown in effect) from 10 pm on 19th April to 5 am of 26th April. Similar lockdown has been in force in Maharashtra till 30th April, apart from partial lockdowns, night curfew and strict curbs in various cities and towns of various states of the country. And we are witnessing ominously familiar scenes after one year: movement of migrant workers in major cities like Mumbai and now Delhi; burning pyres in various crematoriums of the country seemingly defying the official figures of fatalities; stay-home and work-from-home having a renewal; tense scenes inside and in front of hospitals; and so on. Experts have already confirmed that in this second wave of the pandemic the virus is basically airborne and therefore wearing of masks or even double masks is of extreme importance. They have also been maintaining all the while that vaccination cannot prevent infections, but can certainly prevent severe forms of the disease and thus can reduce hospitalization and fatalities significantly, as is seen in many cases across India.


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