Boost it: Editorial on Modi govt's booster dose drive
The government headed by Narendra Modi loves newly minted names. It may have believed that naming a drive to increase coverage of the booster dose for Covid-19 would magically help it reach an unprecedented target. Hence 75 days from mid-July to the end of September comprised the window offered for free precautionary doses for 18 to 59-year-old persons, since the booster dose had reached only a measly 8 per cent after it was instituted in April. And to create the fanfare that Mr Modi’s government thrives on, the mission was called the Amrit Mahotsav of the Covid-19 booster. It may have escaped those who dared remain unimpressed why a government drive for vaccination should be a great celebration, even if the logic behind the idea of immortality — amrit — looked accessible if childish. It was the linking of the booster vaccination drive with the Amrit Mahotsav of Independence that was the strangest of all. But whatever it was, it was not magic. The total coverage of the booster dose was 27 per cent on the last day. Even the constant one-upmanship of the Modi government, turning on the numbers of vaccinations — a crore at one celebratory point — that revelled in pointing out the lower coverage of certain advanced Western countries, cannot talk up the booster dose figure: too many countries have done far better.
Yet the progress from 8 per cent to 27 in 75 days suggests that keeping the booster dose free of charge for a longer time might have helped coverage. The government evidently did not feel it worthwhile, since people seem unenthusiastic about the third dose. Does the government not believe that mobilising people by explaining the need for the third dose is its duty? Perhaps Mr Modi and his ministers believe that governance lies in names and numbers — the rest can be ignored. The laxity exposes the lack of scientific thinking behind the vaccinations. If the government believes that the booster is unnecessary, it should lay out its reasons and stop the futile exercise of totting up numbers. But if it believes the opposite, it must take up as its mission the task of vaccination with supporting doses for the whole of the country with as many awareness-raising movements as it takes. Is there anything behind the fanfare?