Covid-19 has struck people at every walk of life. It has shaken India’s vast population and affected economy, education, health care systems and also day to day normal life for the last one year. Similar to many countries, India too undertook various strategic steps to control Covid-19 and implemented many national and state level Covid-19 control measures. India has efficiently and effectively managed the emergence of first Covid-19 wave. Although many epidemiologists and mathematical model experts predicted there could be second or third wave of Covid-19 in 202 in India, political leaders and policymakers took such information very leniently and casually. The laxity to adhere to covid-19 protocols was deviated at many situations across the country from the beginning of 2021. Critical analysis indicates that political and administrative machinery went into certain type of overconfidence that India has achieved measures to control Covid-19. Such indications from political leaders have profoundly impacted public and thus public diverged from adhering to covid-19 protocols. Recently, top medical journal the Lancet wrote Indian policy makers might have accepted pandemic as “endgame” in India once the first Covid-19 wave subsided.
Government machineries shall look beyond political frame work and political ideologies to face and manage national calamities and such pandemics. Political governments shall bring technocrats, political party leaders, businessmen, scientists, medical fraternity, bureaucrats, policy makers and public health experts together under one umbrella during this pandemic. Such efforts are foremost important to tackle pandemic. It is worth mentioning how global partnership and amalgamation brought countries and organizations together beyond boundaries and boarders to develop vaccines on fast track. Collaboration between Oxford-AstraZeneca- Serum Institute of India, Pfizer-BioNTech and many others are some examples to mention about fruitful global collaborations. Although India has successfully made couple of Covid-19 vaccines Covishield and Covaxin, logistic and vaccine drive did not catch the speed. There has been a slow process in vaccine drive in India. Although India got world appreciation in supplying vaccines to more than seventy countries, India’s mass vaccination effort didn’t meet the expectation.
Declining of Covid-19 surge and initiation of vaccination in the beginning of 2020 might have pushed the political administration to take things unconcernedly. Even top scientific journal like Nature viewed that Indian political governance shall listen to the scientists, medical professionals and public health experts when such pandemic afflicts the country. Strong political will and political wisdom shall emerge to take up such vaccine drive as top most national priority. All political parties should accept certain common mandate that political processions, festivals and public gathering functions should not be held. They should collectively accept the vaccination process for public is country’s urgency and priority. If political party leaders raise concerns and differences of opinion on India’s vaccine drive and on vaccines, public may get into confusion. WHO scientist recently pointed out mass gathering and social activities might have contributed to such sudden surge of Covid-19 in India. India began vaccine drive in 16, Jan 2021 and countries might have initiated some weeks before that. After vaccination drive began many political parties at centre and states started celebrating as India controlled the pandemic. After the onset of vaccine drive, the drive began without acceleration. Emergency use of vaccine became non-emergency. Many other national and political issues became priority over vaccine drive. Notably, the Hon. High courts made serious observation on election procedures in many states on violating covid-19 protocols. Although such events may be unavoidable, political parties shall understand that vaccine drive for public is the need of the hour and important for managing and controlling the Covid-19. Each state has been playing different modus operandi in attacking centre due to political differences and managing vaccination processes.
Political party members should fully adhere to the Covid-19 protocol and should exhibit exemplary gestures to public. When politicians speak, support and propagate political rallies and mass gathering, how public could follow the rules and guidelines! Political machinery across the nation shall come together and merge to work in totality against the national pandemic. Politicians and policy makers are good in comparing and bosting on small achievements of Indian initiatives at national and global platform. This type of comparison may not pay any benefit during pandemic. Similarly, they may also analyse how other countries speeded up their vaccine drive for public by procuring vaccines from other countries. India is the capital of vaccine supplier in the world. Surprisingly, Statista reports as on May 20 in India only 3% people got second dose of vaccine and 10.9 % people received first dose whereas these figures may be ten times more in many other countries.
India could have vaccinated more people above 18 years age, may be better than many other countries, if the vaccine drive could have initiated more aggressively from February. Now CoWin app is like Tatkal and available for just for 1-2 hour per day for vaccine booking. Public is almost in a frustrated situation to get vaccine slots even after trying for weeks through CoWin. This won’t serve the purpose of mass vaccination in India for control of the pandemic. Many rural areas digital divide exists with poor digital literacy and internet connectivity. We have best IT technology service providers in the world and government shall take the help of IT sectors to develop alternative apps or measures to speed up the registration process to cover mass vaccination in short period of time. Establishment of “walk-in vaccine centres “across India could be an option.
Management of vaccine drive by government for such vast Indian population could be discussed with all political party levels, management experts and other technocrats with help of well-established defence organizations and medical fraternity without political differences. Time has come for all political parties join in hand to face such pandemic. The Covid-19 may be a wakeup call for all political parties to remove their political barricades and work together to curtail Covid-19 pandemic.
(The writer is Practicing Medical Scientist at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India. The views expressed are personal.)