Expedite Vaccination

THE coronavirus caseload is continuing to plunge across India in an indication that the second Covid-19 wave may now be winding down. There has been a drastic drop since the peak of over 4 lakh cases in April. Similarly, the daily death count has almost halved. On Wednesday, India reported 62,224 new Covid cases. The fresh fatalities were 2,542. The drop has come amid the easing of the curbs on movement and hence is all the more welcome.

But while the fresh cases are declining, the vaccination is not picking up commensurately leaving India vulnerable to a third wave. India has now increased the gap between two Covishield doses to 12 to 16 weeks from six to eight weeks. The health ministry in its statement on May 13 had said that it had accepted the 12-16 weeks recommendation from the COVID working group of National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), and from a group of mainly government officials tasked with vaccine administration. This was mainly done to compensate for the shortfall of the vaccines and to inoculate more people with the first dose.

This has now become a contentious issue with some experts on the government panel reported to have refused to back increasing of the gap between the two doses. Two doses are important for the Covid-19 vaccines with the first dose producing the vaccines and another acting as a booster.

New studies have claimed that the single dose of Covishield gives only 33 percent protection, not 65 to 85 percent as was estimated earlier. So, the scientists are calling for reducing the gap between two doses. And this should be the case. More so, in the case of the elderly population. There is a large number of the population above 65 years of age that has not received its second dose. Being in the high-risk and vulnerable group, the gap in their case needs to be urgently reduced. The government should make an exception for them.

At the same time, now that the government has got a grip on the second wave, care needs to be taken to pre-empt the third wave. While loosening the curbs to reopen the economy, the government has to strictly enforce the Standard Operating Procedure in public life. This should be done while simultaneously speeding up the vaccination in the country. This can only happen if more vaccines become available and the gap between the two doses is reduced.

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