With a population of 1.38 billion, India requires full vaccination. But is the knowledge, attitudes, and practice regarding COVID-19 and its acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine among healthcare workers and the general population becoming a conflict in India? Because of poor nutritional status, overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, India fall behind in terms of the proportion of the population covered by vaccinations till now and equally well with the rest of the world. India has administered the third-highest number of accumulative doses globally over 16 crores. The higher population of India is effectively a factor regarding the lower coverage of vaccination in India than in other foreign countries.
Is the Indian vaccination policies effective?
Earlier studies claimed that vaccinations have been considered as an important and cost-effective disease prevention and control strategy for rapidly spreading infectious diseases. But Indian vaccination policies somehow lack regarding the full coverage of people since only 38 per cent of the people could have been fully vaccinated compared to Israel and the US. Some studies claim that the Centre’s vaccination policy should mainly focus on getting two doses into people rather than increasing the number of first doses.
On May 13, the government extended the gap between the two doses of Covishield to 12-16 weeks. If the recent study of Public Health England is accurate then the receiver of one dose will only have 33% protection. Experts suggest reconsidering the Indian policy as the single dose is not protective enough to stop the spread of the virus. A barrage of criticism took place when the CoWIN app was being designed, members of the Covid Working Group suggested tracking the relationship between vaccination and infection but unfortunately, it didn’t work in that way otherwise India would have had the world’s best data on the efficacy of AstraZeneca/Covishield against B.1.617.2. Public policy and health systems expert Dr Chandrakant Lahariya draws attention towards the impossibility of head-to-head comparison between countries as different countries has different parameters in assessing and approaching about how to vaccinate their people. Countries in Europe and the US mostly focused on securing supplies and then vaccinating their people as compared to India which opened its vaccination with great speed and now bearing supplies.
Myths associated with vaccination:
The Indian government was receiving a bunch of criticism for poor planning on the Covid vaccination drive such as lack of vaccines availability, working not perfectly to ramp up domestic production of vaccines, invoke compulsory licensing, abdicated its responsibility to the states, vaccination of children etc.
Hesitation, rumours, fake news and conspiracy theories have decreased public trust and confidence in vaccines which became a major challenge for public health experts and policymakers and affect public mentality and vaccine decisions worldwide.
How to resolve the situation?
Constructive social endorsement and efforts against hesitation will help in promoting vaccination and to establish trust between the general population and health authorities and policymakers and may lead to better control of the pandemic and reduction of lives lost. Recently, the Indian government is assuring to vaccinate the whole of the adult population by the end of 2021, which is the biggest vaccine maker that has been struggling to meet demand.
Visuals by: Kunal Kaustav Duwarah
Article by Puja Mahanta, The North-Eastern Chronicle