There are bound to be glitches — a power breakdown that ruins some doses; delays in the vaccine reaching some remote corners of the country; at least, some jumping of queues. But this is an exercise that India will manage well. If all goes well, a month from now, the country could well have more people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine than any other country (AFP)
There are bound to be glitches — a power breakdown that ruins some doses; delays in the vaccine reaching some remote corners of the country; at least, some jumping of queues. But this is an exercise that India will manage well. If all goes well, a month from now, the country could well have more people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine than any other country (AFP)

In India, the story of Covid-19 vaccines

India has done well. The rollout of the vaccines, despite a set of concerns, is a scientific milestone. But the State must, now, plan ahead
UPDATED ON JAN 16, 2021 11:39 PM IST

Remember the date: January 16, 2021.

This is the day India launched its Covid-19 vaccination drive, embarking on what should be the last phase of its fight against the coronavirus disease.

That India got to this point in a little over 10 months since the first local Covid-19 cases emerged is an achievement that needs to be recognised, appreciated and cheered. That it did so with one locally made version of a vaccine developed by a multinational company and a university, and a locally developed one, makes the achievement even more significant.

Sure, the regulatory approval granted to Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech, without studies proving its efficacy, was a break from established protocol and surprising. We know that the vaccine is safe; we just don’t have enough data on its efficacy. It will come in a few weeks, but we do not have it now; and the regulator did not have it when it approved the vaccine. Hope should not be part of scientific processes.

It would have been appropriate for the regulator and the government to admit as much and say that the vaccine was being approved, without knowing its efficacy, simply because these are unprecedented times, and unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. That would have been enough for many people (including Chanakya).

Instead, the government tied itself up in knots trying to justify its decision, and the debate rapidly degenerated, as almost every debate does these days, into one along politically polarised lines. Covaxin may be extremely effective; we just don’t have the data to establish this. It doesn’t matter that it was developed in India; the argument would have been the same had it been developed on Mars.

And sure, the fact that people cannot choose which vaccine they get is a bit of a downer — especially since those getting a shot of Covaxin have to sign a consent form acknowledging that the efficacy of the vaccine is unknown.

Still, the launch of the vaccination drive is significant – and definitely merits celebration.

Israel, the Wall Street Journal reported, is already seeing a decline in infection rates two weeks after people received the first shot of the two-dose vaccine. Thanks to a happy confluence of factors, which are not particularly clear at this point in time, India’s vaccination drive has been launched at a time when the weekly average of cases in the country at a seven-month low.

On Friday, January 15, India’s seven-day average of cases was 15,876, a number last seen on June 26 last year. The seven-day average of deaths on January 15 was 186, a number last seen on May 29. Cases are low, as are deaths; the vaccination drive has been launched; and over the next six months, around 300 million people will be vaccinated. The feared second wave, which ravaged the United States (which had now been further savaged by a third) and Europe, may well not happen in India.

India shouldn’t have a problem with vaccination drives. It has an immunisation programme that covers more people than similar ones in other countries, although the Covid-19 vaccination drive is clearly many times larger. This is simply because it has experience of managing exercises involving a large of number of people — such as the general elections.

There are bound to be glitches — a power breakdown that ruins some doses; delays in the vaccine reaching some remote corners of the country; at least, some jumping of queues. But this is an exercise that India will manage well, perhaps a lot better than the US and the United Kingdom (UK) have. If all goes well, a month from now, the country could well have more people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine than any other country.

But even as it is important that the Centre and states micromanage every aspect of the drive to vaccinate 300 million people, the health ministry has to start planning for what lies beyond — the task of vaccinating the country’s entire population.

To do this, it needs to focus on three areas, all aimed at increasing supply of vaccines and maximising their administration – for this is a disease where no one is safe till everyone is safe.

One, India’s health ministry and regulator need to work on identifying and approving other vaccines. For instance, it has now emerged that Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine,— like Covaxin, this too was initially under a cloud, although in its case, some efficacy data was available — is very effective in combating the virus. Dr Reddy’s Laboratories is carrying out clinical trials of this vaccine, and Hetero Drugs has signed an agreement to locally manufacture 100 million doses of the vaccine. Is there a way to expedite their availability? The regulator could also consider automatically approving any vaccine approved in the US, the European Union (EU) or the UK (this isn’t ideal; but nor was Covaxin’s rushed approval).

Two, the government needs to take a call, if not now, then at least by the middle of February, on open-market availability of the vaccines. Sure, every vaccine sold will have to be tracked, but this is easily done by making minor edits to the dashboards and information systems already in place. Making enough doses of the vaccine available in the open market by June, if not earlier, will help.

Three, the government should also make it possible for institutions and organisations to launch vaccination drives for their students, employees, or members by defining the protocols for sourcing, financing (for instance, can corporate social responsibility funds be used?) and administering vaccines.

India is off to a good start, but it now needs to plan ahead.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
The single-most important geopolitical development of the last few months has been India making it clear to Beijing and to the world that it is possible to resist Chinese aggression successfully (ANI)
The single-most important geopolitical development of the last few months has been India making it clear to Beijing and to the world that it is possible to resist Chinese aggression successfully (ANI)

New Delhi’s new regional calculus

By Harsh V Pant
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 08:13 PM IST
India is giving peace a chance from a position of strength, after showing it can adequately defend its interests when challenged
Close
Education remained the one tool for social mobility, but women were still expected to use fairness creams to be marriageable. (Bloomberg)
Education remained the one tool for social mobility, but women were still expected to use fairness creams to be marriageable. (Bloomberg)

The changing nature of urban homes and women’s lives

By Rukmini Sen
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 07:25 PM IST
This pandemic highlighted the gendered implications of work-from-home and stay-at-home — in terms of increased labour and violence. The home remains a nuclear, heterosexual, marriage-reproduction-based space. A renewed political discussion around housework is needed as much as a re-articulation of what relationalities constitute this home.
Close
Supporters of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) shout slogans, during a rally supporting the implementation of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizenship (NRC), Kolkata, December. 23, 2019 (AP)
Supporters of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) shout slogans, during a rally supporting the implementation of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizenship (NRC), Kolkata, December. 23, 2019 (AP)

In Bengal, the BJP’s now-or-never moment

By Sandip Ghose
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 07:25 PM IST
With successive state governments at perpetual loggerheads with Delhi for over 50 years, there is a widespread feeling that Bengal has missed the development train. Therefore, Bengal’s voters may like to give the BJP’s promise of a “Double Engine Ka Sarkar” a chance, turning this into a wave election. Like Mamata Banerjee’s call of “Ebar or Never” in the 2000s, BJP is fighting this election based on a now-or-never spirit. For the Left and Congress, however, the writing on the wall appears to be Never–Ever.
Close
By toppling a Congress government in Puducherry, the BJP has sent a message to neighbouring Tamil Nadu, where it is contesting the assembly elections with the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, that the Congress is a greatly diminished force, and the party can be vanquished at any time. (PTI)(HT_PRINT)
By toppling a Congress government in Puducherry, the BJP has sent a message to neighbouring Tamil Nadu, where it is contesting the assembly elections with the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, that the Congress is a greatly diminished force, and the party can be vanquished at any time. (PTI)(HT_PRINT)

The battle for a UT and BJP’s South ambitions

By Venkatesha Babu
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 09:18 AM IST
  • BJP is hoping that its NDA alliance of AINRC, AIADMK and itself along with the three nominated members will be able to come to power against the Congress – DMK combine.
Close
A nurse carries coolers with vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 as elderly people are being inoculated. (AFP Photo )
A nurse carries coolers with vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 as elderly people are being inoculated. (AFP Photo )

A crisis with a woman’s face

By Antonio Guterres
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2021 06:49 AM IST
Women are 24 per cent more vulnerable to losing their jobs and suffering steeper falls in income. The gender pay gap, already high, has widened, including in the health sector.
Close
Women’s education has increased over the last two decades, and fertility rates have fallen — both have contributed to increasing participation of women in the paid labour force elsewhere in the world. But not so in India (HTPHOTO)
Women’s education has increased over the last two decades, and fertility rates have fallen — both have contributed to increasing participation of women in the paid labour force elsewhere in the world. But not so in India (HTPHOTO)

India’s women and the workforce

By Ashwini Deshpande
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2021 09:34 AM IST
Women are not dropping out. They are being pushed out by the lack of demand for their labour. There has been movement out of agriculture into informal and casual jobs, where the work is sporadic, and often less than 30 days at a stretch. The new modern sector opportunities, especially in high value-added service sectors, mostly accrue to men.
Close
The BJP is going all out to win this election and Mamata Banerjee is fighting tooth and nail to ensure that she does not concede an inch. Both sides are evenly matched (Samir Jana/HT Photo)
The BJP is going all out to win this election and Mamata Banerjee is fighting tooth and nail to ensure that she does not concede an inch. Both sides are evenly matched (Samir Jana/HT Photo)

The high-stakes battle in West Bengal 2021

By Shashi Shekhar
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2021 09:35 AM IST
In West Bengal, one TMC slogan is “Khela Hobe” (game on). The BJP picked it up and ran with it. Now the Congress and Left activists are repeating this. The game is truly on. But it will be just a game if it is stripped of all morality. It becomes a mockery of the people’s aspirations. But that is the way things are going at the moment.
Close
Violence against women or gender-based violence is defined by the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women as “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately”. (HTPHOTO)
Violence against women or gender-based violence is defined by the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women as “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately”. (HTPHOTO)

A misplaced idea of honour enables violence against women

By Amita Punj
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2021 09:35 AM IST
The prevailing gendered notions of honour remain at variance with the gender-just society that the Constitution seeks to establish. The constitutional principles of non-discrimination and equality are in tune with India’s international obligations as a party to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Close
A nurse draws a Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, at East Valley Community Health Center in La Puente, California, US. (REUTERS)
A nurse draws a Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, at East Valley Community Health Center in La Puente, California, US. (REUTERS)

Look at number of people dying post-vaccination: Efficacy number that matters

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 07:10 PM IST
People aren’t only worried about dying from Covid; they’re also worried about getting so-called long Covid and transmitting the disease to others even after they’re vaccinated.
Close
Why has the government persisted with a highly centralised approach? One, the BJP 2.0 appears enthralled with the idea of One Nation, One India. Two, collaborating with state governments or opening legislation up to parliamentary debate requires more time, effort, and risk of failure than executive decree. Three, there is an issue with credit-claiming (PTI)
Why has the government persisted with a highly centralised approach? One, the BJP 2.0 appears enthralled with the idea of One Nation, One India. Two, collaborating with state governments or opening legislation up to parliamentary debate requires more time, effort, and risk of failure than executive decree. Three, there is an issue with credit-claiming (PTI)

For reforms, create a coalition of the willing

By Milan Vaishnav and Jonathan Kay
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 08:16 PM IST
Instead of big bang measures announced from Delhi, PM Modi should use his stature to create a coalition of like-minded states to pursue economic reforms
Close
With land in agriculture mostly being in the name of men, women are not recognised as farmers, although a large proportion of them are involved in agricultural work. This also keeps women away from accessing various schemes and resources (HT Photo)
With land in agriculture mostly being in the name of men, women are not recognised as farmers, although a large proportion of them are involved in agricultural work. This also keeps women away from accessing various schemes and resources (HT Photo)

The missing women in India’s workforce

By Dipa Sinha
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 08:18 PM IST
Studies have shown that women are willing to be employed, negating the argument that cultural factors keep women from working outside the household
Close
So why is the court silent? Once retired, judges have spoken out, but those still sitting on its benches have kept their lips sealed. (File Photo)
So why is the court silent? Once retired, judges have spoken out, but those still sitting on its benches have kept their lips sealed. (File Photo)

Institutions have failed citizens on sedition

UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 08:17 PM IST
In a nutshell, sedition can only apply if there is clear and imminent incitement to violence. Not otherwise. But have our police and various governments recognised this? Or, if they have, do they care?
Close
Women labourers work at a site under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Ajmer, 2020 (PTI)
Women labourers work at a site under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Ajmer, 2020 (PTI)

Can Covid-19 open doors for working women?

UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 08:17 PM IST
The Start-up India and Skill India schemes should target women much more aggressively now. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose words have proved transformational in many areas, should use his popular radio broadcast, Mann ki Baat, to emphasis the need to get women back into the workforce and make the workplace more conducive to those already in it.
Close
Without either the wealth and connections or profile of India’s film industry, Faruqui has shown more courage and almost zero cynicism. It doesn’t matter if you found his jokes funny or not — the jail-time he was subjected to was an abomination. (ANI)
Without either the wealth and connections or profile of India’s film industry, Faruqui has shown more courage and almost zero cynicism. It doesn’t matter if you found his jokes funny or not — the jail-time he was subjected to was an abomination. (ANI)

What Bollywood could learn from Munawar Faruqui

PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 06:09 PM IST
In this patchy, roller-coaster of a fortnight for India’s fundamental freedoms, some individuals have stood up, while others have failed our citizens
Close
The Digital Media Code has been formulated rather speciously, under Section 87 (1) & (2)(z) & (zg) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) (“IT Act”) i.e., the rule-making power. Rule-making or subordinate legislations are intended to carry out the purpose of an enactment. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The Digital Media Code has been formulated rather speciously, under Section 87 (1) & (2)(z) & (zg) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) (“IT Act”) i.e., the rule-making power. Rule-making or subordinate legislations are intended to carry out the purpose of an enactment. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Creating a sustainable, legitimate digital regulatory regime

By NS Nappinai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 05:55 PM IST
The Digital Media Code fails to conform to, and, in fact, confounds, every settled constitutional mandate for lawmaking — the very obvious premise that law is to be made by the lawmakers i.e. the legislature and not the executive.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP