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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Third round: Editorial on Indian citizens neglecting the 3rd dose

In India, where population size and varying levels of exposure and income are factors in any public health initiative, the habit of ad hoc thinking suits everyone

The Editorial Board Published 27.12.22, 04:37 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File Photo.

Information does not always transmute into useful knowledge. The present time may be overloaded with information available to anyone with a smartphone, but that seems to have become an end in itself. That may partly explain the Indian citizen’s disinterest in getting vaccinated a third time for Covid-19. The need for a third dose was all over the internet, yet the Indian citizen neglected the third dose on a scale that has put India pitifully behind many countries in the vaccination project. In spite of the 75-day free third shot arranged by the Union government in July, less than 25% of the eligible population has taken it so far, although government data show 95% coverage for the first two shots for the younger, 12+ population. Some states have done well: Andhra Pradesh has given the third shot to 100 per cent of the elderly, and Himachal Pradesh has managed 85 per cent. But less than 50 per cent of the 18-59 years age group has taken it in most states. The best is 45.5 per cent, in Telangana. The national coverage is 19.2 per cent.

Vaccination cannot succeed without the people’s willingness. The price of the booster for the 18-59 population could not have been the only discouragement, feel doctors; there were other factors. The virus appeared to have become less threatening. In India, where population size and varying levels of exposure and income are factors in any public health initiative, the habit of ad hoc thinking suits everyone. If an infection seems to have weakened, vaccination is unnecessary. This psychology may have been bolstered by scepticism bred by the deaths of those vaccinated twice. Now that there is a new alarm, people may be more willing. But vaccine production has also dropped with the lack of demand because the government failed to communicate the necessity for booster doses. The abrupt growth in demand has caught many hospitals on the wrong foot. The government needs to ensure an immediate increase in production, distribution and administering of the booster dose. If other countries can achieve better booster dose coverage in spite of the apparent waning of the pandemic, India can too. It just needs political will and awareness – the country has already experienced the terrible tragedy the alternative can bring.

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