India is expected to begin vaccinating people against Covid-19 sometime in January, next year. Dummy runs are being carried out in four states to ensure there are no glitches when the actual campaign begins. The choice of which vaccine to be used has not been made yet – it is not even clear whether it would be just one or more brands that would be accepted. The hope is clearance would be provided to an Indian manufactured vaccine so that there are fewer problems with transportation, storage, price, etc. All this is being done at a time when a new strain of the virus is making its presence known and there is no clarity on whether the vaccines would be effective against it. So, the by now well practiced response of checking spread through isolation is being tried.
In the meanwhile, there has been a steady decline in the number of cases and deaths from the virus nationwide. However, while the graph is declining steeply in states like Delhi, it is rising disconcertingly in Uttarakhand. Even the Chief Minister has become infected and has had to be moved to Delhi for treatment. Has it anything to do with the way precautions are being followed by the people, or is it just an idiosyncrasy on the part of the virus? Clearly, there is some problem with management of the pandemic. The problem is made worse by the fact that the winter tourism season on in full swing and a very important balance has to be maintained between commercial interests and people’s well-being.
Before it launches its vaccination programme, India will be able to witness the effectiveness of the process as it is already in full swing in several countries. If numbers drop substantially two weeks after a critical number of people are vaccinated, it will give greater confidence to the programme here. Hopefully, vaccination will prove effective against the virus and its emerging mutant forms, because people are rapidly giving up on precautions as can be witnessed in the unfettered continuance of ‘super-spreader’ events, such as the ongoing farmers’ protest in Delhi. It would be disastrous if, after all the effort that has been put in over the past almost a year, things go out of control again.