It seems that anything being provided free loses its value in the eyes of the beneficiaries. Had the government initially priced the Covid vaccines at an unacceptable level and, then, after protests from the opposition and the human rights wallahs, reduced it, there would probably have been crowds jostling to get vaccinated. The low turnout at many places by health and other frontline workers, who have been given the opportunity to get vaccinated first – given the priority their safety requires, it would seem this principle applies.
It is also possible that the declining incidence of Covid-19 infections has made people complacent and unwilling to get vaccinated. Most of all, however, there seems to be an impact of the vaccine-doubters on people’s mindsets. Even health workers, who should have confidence in medical science, seem to have been affected by this thinking. This poses a major challenge for governments as spending so much on the vaccine would prove pointless if a large enough section of the population is not inoculated.
The reported decision that the Prime Minister, his ministers, and state chief ministers would be next to get vaccinated seems to have been taken keeping this situation in mind. Politicians like SP’s Akhilesh Yadav had insinuated that the PM had not been the first to get vaccinated because of the vaccine’s suspect quality. Many others of his ilk had declared they would support the cause if the PM led the way. Hopefully, they will keep their word.
Some changes have been made by government in the protocol involving vaccination that will overcome initial glitches, allowing those willing not having to wait for ‘their turn’. This approach should be further expanded to the next category of recipients, such as the elderly. In fact, if there is not enough ‘demand’ amongst those sought to be given preferential treatment, thought should be given to allowing the vaccine to be sold in the open market. People should realise that the percentage of people dying of the virus might be very small, but for the one who does die, the rate goes up to hundred percent! It may be noted that, while Indians may be taking the availability of vaccine for granted, as many as 92 countries have lined up to procure it from India. People must also realise that, unless there is some confidence on the infection front, the economy will not entirely be able to get back on track. Vaccine reluctance may actually prevent revival on the job front!