Covid-19: Open up vaccination for all | HT Editorial
India’s vaccination drive will enter its second phase from Monday, March 1. In the 45 days since it started the drive, India has vaccinated a little over 12 million people. Ever since the drive began, a clear self-congratulatory tone has been evident in the government’s messaging. Sure, it is a matter of pride that both vaccines being used are locally made (albeit, one under licence), but 12 million is a poor number to show for a country that has an extant large, public, universal vaccination campaign. The expansion of the drive, and the involvement of the private sector is a welcome move, and will help, but it is time India started thinking about opening up vaccination for all takers.
There is good reason for this. One, a straight mathematical calculation shows that around 40% of Indians are willing to be vaccinated (12 million done of a target of 30 million in the first phase). Even if one were to make this 50% so as to factor in other issues (logistics, availability, the vaccine app crashing, etc), it is still just half the expected number. Two, it could be months before those under the age of 18 are vaccinated (currently, nowhere in the world has a vaccine been approved for those in this age category). That leaves out (by a conservative estimate) at least a third of Indians. Add this to those who do not want to be vaccinated, and it is clear that there is no way India will get even close to the 40-50% needed for herd immunity (and scientifically, a vaccine is the only way to achieve true herd immunity) without opening up vaccination.
As this newspaper has repeatedly said: Approve more vaccines; make them available in the open market; and open up vaccination.