NEW DELHI: Stressing that the government’s plan to inoculate only a critical section of the population will not halt the Covid pandemic, health experts feel that the decision appears to be more for concealing its unwillingness to go for universal immunisation.
While Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan had asserted that the Centre never said the entire population will be vaccinated, ICMR chief Balram Bhargava had claimed that universal immunisation may not be required if “critical mass of people” is vaccinated and the chain of transmission is broken in the country.
But, specialists said the government seems to be trying to wriggle out of its own promise of universal vaccination.
“The only way to contain the pandemic is by achieving herd immunity through immunising a sizeable chunk of population and the government is not even specifying who the critical mass will be vaccinated,” said an epidemiologist who is part of ICMR’s task force on Covid surveillance and epidemiology.
The government maintains that those prioritised for vaccination include frontline workers like HCWs, elderly and those with comorbidities.
Aurnab Ghoshe from the Indian Institute of Scientific Education Research highlighted a trend observed in Pune’s Lohiyanagar-Kasewadi area.
Nearly 66 % people tested were found to have antibodies but six new cases per 1,000 population were still detected between August and November.
“So, around 400 new infections, or 100 new infections every month, were still found in just a small area despite such high seroprevalence. So even if a small part of the population in a country like India is immunized, it may not be enough. It will keep pushing thousands to serious disease. Many will eventually succumb,” Ghose said.
While healthcare and frontline workers may be most vulnerable, it’s not clear why the government believes that vaccinating them will be enough to control the pandemic.
“Is there any evidence that they transmit the disease more? If there is, the government should present it,” he said.
Epidemiologist Chandrakant Lahariya opined that the vaccination plan has to be dynamic.
“It needs prior prioritisation of target beneficiaries as a process. The principles on which target vaccinee will be selected need to be spelt out,” the co-author of the book ‘Till We Win: India’s Fight Against Covid-19 Pandemic.’
Virus caseload plunges to 4 lakh after 138 days
India’s Covid caseload rose to 96.44 lakh, while the total number of people who have recuperated from the disease crossed 91 lakh pushing the national recovery rate to 94.37%, according to Health Ministry data updated on Sunday.
The caseload plunged to almost 4 lakh after 138 days.