Covid Immunization: India leads Vaccination drive, surges ahead of rest of the world

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One billion Covid vaccine shots in just 9 months

 Dr (Prof) BNBM Prasad

Lt Gen (Retd) SM, VSM

Lucknow: As the most dreaded pandemic of the century, devastated one and all without any rich and poor divide, public health bodies including W.H.O were found wanting in having the most appropriate approach to contain the rage of the COVID-19 pandemic, notwithstanding past cumulative experiences of managing similar viral pandemics. Yes, there were no effective drug that worked like a magic bullet against COVID-19 and whatsoever new drug, one tried, including the repurposed one, just failed to make much impact. Under the circumstances, as expected, the only way and the sure way to contain the pandemic was by mass vaccination like the one that eradicated small pox once for all from the globe after it had a firm foot hold for almost three thousand years. COVID-19 vaccination, brought cheers by confirming protection and generating vaccine war by the rich and the poor. In this tussle, poor again faced the brunt as was the case during the height of the pandemic for want of the basic supportive care.

Indian Govt. under PM Modi took measures on war footing from the very beginning of the pandemic and gave the first covid-19 vaccine jab on 16 January 2021 soon after W.H.O approved vaccine was launched. It took only nine months, the gestation period for a single cell to develop in to an infant, for completing a billion jabs at Govt. expense, what is otherwise considered an impossible task to achieve, especially for a developing country like India with scant resources and her economy badly ravaged by the pandemic.

India’s COVID-19 vaccination mission was questioned at every step by skeptics and yet Modi Govt. invested billions and succeeded in administering more than 10 lakh vaccine jabs in less than 4 lakh minutes while it took 2 decades for National Health Mission to succeed after Pulse Polio Immunization Programme  was rolled out on 02 October 1994. The sheer  number of vaccine doses given in 2021 under basic conditions be it against COVID-19  or against Polio is magical and that too with no adverse effects is mind boggling. But what is important from the global perspective is that India could achieve on ground what was once considered next to impossible in protecting two third of the population by a simple preventive strategy with her inherent abilities always under the scanner. It was the testing time to every Indian and this mile stone, a matter of pride to one and all. It is the break neck speed and hitting the bulls eye that is the bottom line of this success story. The transformation of India from the bygone era of using bullock carts to launch satellites to the state of art technology for mass vaccination is total and complete under Modi Govt.

From the scientific point of view, Indian made Covaxin is not only one of the cheapest but one of the best as well, yet has to wait so long to get the W.H.O clearance for emergency use and this much-criticized vaccine missile just worked miracles without any adverse consequences. Mass vaccination has had a definite impact in India. Second wave had the natural death and third wave failed to rise from ashes despite much feared delta wave. It is likely that wide spread community infection consequent to first two waves boosted the herd immunity that is further augmented by the mass vaccination. Undoubtedly, herd immunity supplanted by vaccine is the best way forward to prevent COVID-19.

Covid-19 is still a matter of worry almost 2 years after it surfaced in China and more than 1000 deaths are occurring even now in an advanced country like Russia, that authorized her own make Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine for use in August last year. Is it the failure of this particular vaccine to protect ?. It is difficult to say. Yet, vaccination is a small yet an important step.  The moot point is how virus got in when it lived harmoniously in the bats and other lower species. There are many microbes all set in the nature ready to strike humans all alike. The only way is to preserve the body’s ability to survive and that is only possible by harmonious living and eliminating factors that leads to disharmony with the nature.

Covid-19 pandemic has taught many things but most importantly the stark reality- the battle against infection has just begun and there is a long way to go. It is obvious by now that high mortality and morbidity of the pandemic is rather due to failure of standard care in vogue than lack of it. it is a fact that none of the medication be it antivirals, antibiotics or steroids worked the way one wanted for all the superior claims made of their efficacy in critically ill and post-COVID-19 Mucormycosis, that surfaced in epidemic proportions was essentially an iatrogenic problem due to overmedication with blame going to poor industrial oxygen and unsanitary hospital conditions. All those drugs authorized for compassionate use by W.H.O ironically were less compassionate and some of them have been now withdrawn for use in COVID-19.

it is now time to reflect and curb desperate measures that were taken in the right earnest but failed miserably in the COVID-19 Care. There is no need to feel panicky and helpless. For every problem, there is a solution but it takes time and human body knows it better. There is no short cuts to boost immunity than by the way of natural infection or vaccination.

Public health should be the focus of this millennium and efforts to realize health for all should be on the war footing. Global health and climate change are hot topics of the day as world is on the edge of a major disaster. Any short-sighted approach is sure recipe for the disaster to happen, yet we follow the destructive path. Every nation knows the consequences of their action-be it climate change or pandemics but then economic gains take precedence over nature conservation and human health. Yes, we all  know that It is the fundamental right to live healthy and it is a global necessity. But we are not ready to accept a solution that can make the world a better place to lives- free from the pandemics and natural disasters. As usual, We The People matter a lot and small little baby steps- planting a tree, walking a mile, healthy food habits, service with smile and living with nature are indeed “a thing of beauty is a joy for ever” impacting human health and happiness for the better.

 Writer is Prof of Pulmonary Critical Care Medicine & Advisor Medical Education, Government of UP

(Views are personal)