What comes in way of COVID-19 plagued India and a near normal one is Vaccine Hesitancy. As pandemic was an unheard word, in the same manner the next term which has become its challenger is Vaccine Hesitancy. The most awaited guest for the COVID-19 stricken world was the vaccine, at the end of a grueling research to create it. Then the technical /legal circus through the regulatory agencies and finally it proved its worth. The worth is a scientifically proven efficacy against COVID-19. The 8 -10 years of a normal vaccine research cycle was brought to about 10 months, with no short cuts. It has been over two and half months since India started a humongous vaccination drive.
The general perception was once the vaccine arrives, the pandemic would become history. What has happened is precisely the opposite. Today we are in the midst of a surge which might have been unimaginable last year, while being in the midst of a massive vaccination drive. Where did we lose the plot? For sure, we have. We have to get out of this wilderness, otherwise all our plans of recovery on several fronts will go awry. The roadmap to everything is the immediate disappearance of the most weird mindset, creating one of its kind perversion called Vaccine Hesitancy.
When we gleefully carry our infants to all the scheduled vaccinations, treating it as a scientific fact and a health necessity, why Vaccine Hesitancy now? With pandemic all around, still there are large numbers of people who feel they will not be infected. Corona does not decide to infect depending on your mindset. The erosion of scientific temper in a science and technology driven country is most ironic. Did we not prepare the masses for the ensuing vaccination program? Did we take the top-heavy route instead of bottoms up program? Did we start with the politics of vaccines? We have come to the most tragic part of the story that even without any ill health effects in over 7 crores of vaccination, can the Government – NGO apparatus not make this existential thought reach home?
Vaccine Hesitancy is thus a sad commentary on the trust the system can generate, inclusive of the media. Awareness with action does not fit in the CSR mode. If providing a COVID-19 bed is a state responsibility, then bringing the citizen for vaccination is also a state duty. Vaccination has ceased to be a personal issue. Anyone and everyone is the community health risk. Disaster Management Act should give it a legal mandate. When not wearing a mask can attract fine, there is no way vaccination can be left to individual whims and fancies. Individual idiosyncrasies cannot take precedence over public good. This is no choice. From self-regulation to halfhearted government enforcement of appropriate COVID-19 behavior, we have reached this ugly pass. If we miss out on universal compulsory vaccination, posterity will never forgive us. Time is running out.
GETTING EVERY CITIZEN VACCINATED IS THE MOST PIOUS ACT ANY GOVERNMENT CAN DO.