For the first time in the history of mankind, the very existence of human being seems threatened. Crores of people have been affected the world over with lakhs dying and millions still suffering from this invisible coronavirus. No country has remained unaffected from the scourge of this fatal, treacherous and mercurial enemy.
As per latest scientific studies and medical experts, there are only two probable ways to deal with this ever-mutating virus, SARS-CoV-2. Either we can prevent ourselves from this virus by taking all precautionary measures like social-distancing, wearing a mask and maintaining hygiene so that this virus does not enter our body. The other is by way of developing antibodies—which can happen after getting affected by and exposed to this virus; or by getting vaccinated.
And, the only plausible, long-term and permanent solution to the coronavirus is vaccination. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccination is one of the world’s most successful health interventions, saving as many as 4-5 million lives every year. Vaccinations have been able to nearly eradicate polio and check yellow fever epidemics, among other diseases. Now, it is a fight between a virus and vaccination. Ideally it takes years and decades to develop a vaccination. Developing a new vaccine from zero takes considerable time and depends on a host of factors like available information about the disease itself, how the disease infects people and spreads, and so on. On an average it has taken 5-10 years to develop a new vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long and cumbersome process, which has five phases ranging from preclinical to final inoculation phase. All credit to the researchers, scientists and virologists of India who have developed a made-in-India vaccine—Covaxin—in a record time of nine months. The other available vaccines are Covishield and Sputnik-V, which have got emergency use authorization (EUA).
India has embarked upon the largest vaccination drive in the history of mankind wherein it aims to vaccinate its entire eligible population. With a population of over 130 crore, this is a herculean task. India has prior experience in implementing national immunization campaigns successfully. The COVID-19 vaccination programme was launched on January 16, 2021, which targeted the first group that included healthcare and frontline workers. In less than five months, India has been able to administer vaccine to 24.60 crore people (as on June 10) which is over 15 per cent of its population.
After a frightening second wave of COVID-19, immunization has become need of the hour and the focus of government’s actions. When the first phase of vaccination was kicked off, there was vaccine hesitancy and vaccine resistance. People were hesitant to take the vaccine while some even opposed it. There were questions and concerns around the safety of the vaccine and a fear of side-effects. Some of these fears were compounded by the misinformation spread by those with vested interests and looking to fish in troubled waters. Even some of the so-called political and social influencers created fear in the minds of the people by turning an issue of national health and safety into a political agenda.
This is a challenging time for the nation and humanity. The vaccination programme of India should be hailed as a national mission, devoid of political differences. Each citizen has a national duty to take the vaccine. Let no one be left behind. It is also a national duty to motivate other citizens to take the jab. Let this vaccination be a national drive where we fight against a hidden enemy with all our might, unitedly. Let this be our national motto: Till the last citizen of this country is vaccinated, we shall not rest.
Let all our national resources be focused and channelled towards this purpose. Let us all speak in a single voice—that vaccination is our biggest national priority. India has a culture of sewa. Let each organization—NGOs and civil society groups— participate in this national mission. Let all states, political parties stand united and follow the call of vaccination by the Prime Minister. Let us follow the clarion call of the national leader keeping aside political gains and losses. It is time to act as nation.