Bring in private players

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With over 1.1 crore healthcare and frontline workers administered the vaccine against Covid-19 till now, India boasts of ranking third, after the US and the UK, in the highest cumulative vaccination numbers. However, while it is a commendable achievement, in absolute terms, the figure amounts to a minuscule fraction of our over 130 crore people.

The pace of the ongoing vaccination programme needs to be speeded up so as to build a wall of immunity against the contagious coronavirus. Massive logistics put in place for the transportation, storage and administration of the two doses currently available and those in-the-making should facilitate faster and wider coverage.

As the campaign is set to enter the second phase in March, when crores of citizens above 50 years will start getting the jab, the government’s roping in of the private sector to complement its efforts is a step in the right direction. Dr VK Paul, NITI Aayog member who heads the Centre’s pandemic response team, has indicated a partnership with the private players.

While IT czar and philanthropist Azim Premji’s projection, at an industry event, that involving the private sector may help cover 50 crore vaccinations in just two months may sound ambitious, but it does indicate the potential of the vast reach and expertise of the private hospitals and clinics dotting the country. The eventual aim should be for the common person to be able to walk in at the nearest centre for inoculation. A cap on pricing is a must to prevent undue profiteering by the private sector.

This assumes significance in the wake of the worrisome uptick in the number of infections in the country after a lull of three months. Along with the virus striking harder with new mutating strains, it holds the potential of snowballing into a second wave. Israel’s preliminary data in this context, though yet to be peer-reviewed, is encouraging. With almost half of its population having had at least one dose, Israel has the highest vaccination rate in the world. Its observation that the vaccine is 89 per cent effective in curbing the transmission of the virus holds the promise of herd immunity.

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