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  • Raghav Sand

Now or Never: Why India Should Start Vaccinating the Young

First it was the essential and frontline workers. Second phase witnessed the COVID-19 vaccine being administered to those above 60 years and people above 45 years with pre-existing co-occurring medical condition. From 1st April, everyone above 45 years will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine. The above course of action, coupled with vaccine diplomacy, is leaving a huge chunk of the population vulnerable to the virus.

Demographic Dividend Erosion?

The chart below depicts the age distribution of India from 2009 to 2019. In 2019, about 26.62 percent of the Indian population fell into the 0–14-year category, 67 percent into the 15-64 age group and 6.38 percent were over 65 years of age. In simpler terms, two out of three people in India fall in the 15-64 age group. This group is also the most active in terms of mobility necessitated by education, employment, entrepreneurship and leisure activities.

Data: Statista Chart: The Know-How Journal

The decision to leave out almost 50-75 percent of the people from the 15-64 age group lacks prudence and common sense. Sooner than later, a pro-rata representation for vaccination from this vulnerable and super-spreader group must begin. Those charged with governance should be mindful about the economic cost of their short-sighted inoculation roadmap. In all likelihood, central and state health authorities plan to begin vaccination for the 18-45 age group in the last quarter of calendar year 2021. By then it may become a classic case of too little, too late.

Inconsistent Intentions

In the past week, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan contended that it is not necessary for every individual to get vaccinated. If Dr Vardhan is to be believed, it seems India is not aiming for universal immunization and herd immunity remains a distant dream. “Not each and every person in the world will be vaccinated. The prioritisation process is a dynamic process. The behaviour of the virus is also dynamic. All things are based on scientific facts, scrutiny and vision of the overall scientific and health community,” he explained.

As per World Health Organization, the transmission classification for India is currently set at ‘clusters of cases’. People are putting themselves and others at risk by showing disregard for basic COVID-19 protocols. It should not take much time for people to realise that the virus and its new strains will not go away on its own. First quarter of 2021 is about to end in a week’s time but the daily new cases and fatalities are mirroring November 2020 figures.

History Repeating Itself

On 16 September last year, the number of daily new cases peaked 97,894 and in the first week of January it seemed the virus was receding. Now, to have almost half the number of daily new cases of September on 21 March (46,951), the individual and collective effort of disciplined and responsible people seem to be running out of steam. We cannot expect common sense from one and all.

Data: Johns Hopkins University Chart: The Know-How Journal

Those who care from themselves and others, must diligently keep their defences intact. There is nothing heroic in being careless. People who are not following the guidelines issued by health authorities are irresponsible and unpardonable. For once we should all look at the bigger picture.

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