The clash of self-congratulatory cymbals is being heard, once again, as India has crossed the mark of 100 crore administered doses of Covid-19 vaccine. The prime minister has stated that the nation has scripted history and the occasion is being marked by several events, including the unfurling of a khadi tri-colour from the Red Fort. This milestone in India’s inoculation campaign is, indeed, an achievement. The number of administered doses was a paltry 415 million only three months ago and has since gone beyond the 100-crore barrier. This can only mean that the campaign has gained momentum with the removal of bottlenecks in the production of indigenous vaccines as well as greater public receptivity towards vaccination. The Centre’s enthusiasm to mark the achievement is a bit strange though. The battle against the pandemic is a public responsibility of an elected government. There is no need for indulging in conceit especially as India has a long way to go in terms of achieving full immunity. Existing data should temper the brouhaha. The Centre has set itself the target of inoculating all adult Indians by the end of this year. This means that as of Wednesday, 892 million doses need to be given over the remaining 72 days. The worry is that there seems to be a perceptible lag in the pace of vaccination: the daily target to inoculate all adults by December end has risen from 8.9 million in July to 12.3 million. The causes behind this — inertia in the vaccination campaign, pace of production of vials and so on — must be identified and eliminated. Moreover, only 30 per cent of the total eligible population of recipients has received the mandatory two doses while nearly 70 million vulnerable adults are yet to receive even a single dose. Break-through infections are not unknown so the health infrastructure must stay alert for more upsurges in the future. The song and dance unveiled by the government can, clearly, wait.
The reason for this pat-on-the-back exercise is clear. Several key assembly elections are on the horizon and the Bharatiya Janata Party is nervous about the outcome in some of these because of its inept handling of the second wave of Covid that had lashed India. The BJP is hoping that a public spectacle could divert attention from its monumental failures on several fronts, including health and economy. It remains to be seen whether the people choose to remain enchanted by diversion or take informed decisions based on a rather sorry reality.