World’s Largest Vaccine Drive
As India crosses over 143 crore vaccine doses, the sheer speed, scale and safety with which the drive has been conducted, has made the entire world take notice. Despite starting a month after the USA began its drive, India has managed to outpace the biggest economy of the world by administering more than twice the number of doses it has done so far. In the last week, an average of 948,921 doses per day was administered in the USA whereas India administered an average of about 60 lakh doses per day. In the USA, 83.9% of the eligible population has taken one dose. Doing equally well, 71% of India’s adult population has been administered at least 1 dose of Covid-19 vaccine, despite starting, as I reiterated earlier, a month after the USA. Globally, the latest vaccination rate is 2,83,58,130 doses per day, on average. This means India alone is administering 21% of the daily vaccines administered in the world.
These are not small or insignificant achievements especially given the enormity of challenges that India faced. In the past, it took decades for vaccines that had been developed globally to be introduced in India. The time lag was usually ranging between several years to several decades. It then took another decade to even get the vaccine administered to the eligible population. For eg: The inactivated polio vaccine, was developed by Jonas Salk in 1955 and an attenuated live oral polio vaccine was developed by Albert Sabin and came into commercial use in 1961. It was only in 1985 that the vaccination against polio started in India with the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI). By 1999, it covered only around 60% of infants. And this is a vaccine that was administered by drops not injections. Now, compare this to the Covid 19 vaccine that was developed almost at the same period (give or take a few months) both globally and in India. India got two made –in- India vaccines by December 2020, namely Covishield and the fully indigenously developed Covaxin. The vaccination drive, undoubtedly the largest in the world, began on January 16th 2021.
Initially, there were doubts in people’s minds. Unfortunately, some people in responsible positions chose, quite irresponsibly, to put politics above the pandemic and continued to fuel those suspicions into vaccine hesitancy. They seemed to be motivated more by Modi Virodh than Corona Virodh. But the Central government led by PM Narendra Modi adopted a unique approach of communicating directly with the people and building awareness and confidence in the vaccines while continuing to motivate lakhs of our healthcare professionals and scientists. Resultantly, the vaccination drive that began in India in January with vaccine hesitancy pegged at 60% is now down to its lowest at a mere 7% of the adult Indian population.
Vaccine inequity and discrimination was another legitimate fear that could have hampered the success of the national drive. Given the income gaps that persist between rich and poor, many thought that vaccines, the most vital and useful tool in the battle against Covid 19, would also be cornered by a handful and the poor would not be able to access expensive vaccines. To address this issue, the Central government not only took the decision to give Free Vaccines to All above the age of 18+ but even symbolically sent a strong message when the first person to get the jab of hope was not the President of India or the Prime Minister or the Health Minister or some wealthy businessman but a 34-year-old sanitation worker, Manish Kumar, from Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). His image of getting the first dose in India was not only a powerful one but in many senses reflected the commitment of the Modi government to democratize the drive. Just like every citizen in India, irrespective of his caste, creed and class is entitled to one vote- every Indian was entitled to the life-saving vaccines as a matter of right.
Some state governments, particularly those belonging to the opposition, initially tried to use the vaccine drive for petty political bickering. But today, the national overwhelming sentiment in support of the vaccine drive has made them come back on track. Today, many states and UTs are administering vaccines faster than many nation-states. Uttar Pradesh has managed to inoculate 11.35 cr doses and Maharashtra, ruled by the Maha Vikas Aghadi, has managed a healthy 8.60 cr in the second spot. Bengal, led by CM Mamata Banerjee, has crossed 6.22 cr doses. Political differences aside, states have come together truly as a union to make this fight back possible. By mid-September itself, Himachal Pradesh was among the first states to have vaccinated all eligible adults with one dose. States like Goa and Sikkim, UTs like Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Ladakh and Lakshadweep too managed to vaccinate 100% of the adult population with one dose.
When the drive began it took 85-86 days to administer the 1st ten crore doses. Subsequently, the pace has exponentially increased and in the last few weeks, the mark of 10 cr vaccine doses, has taken on average just about 11-13 days to be completed. On 17th September, which happened to be the birthday of PM Modi, India managed a whopping 2.5 cr doses in one single day. That is almost the equivalent of vaccinating the entire population of New Zealand 4 times over in one single day!
This could not have been possible without the planning and administrative vision of the Central government, coordination and implementation by the states, execution and dedication of the lakhs of health care workers but most importantly the full-fledged participation of the people of India, who at a time when social distancing has been prescribed, have understood the value to unite under the leadership of PM Modi to defeat this foreign enemy that has caused tremendous damage to India and the world. It also proves that, when it is a cause in the national interest or Jan Hit, the people of India, never shy away from uniting in a Jan Abhiyan.
[This Blog is written by Niranjan, MyGov Saathi]