Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for a ‘Tika Utsav’ aka vaccine festival next week. As India struggles through the second deadly wave of COVID-19, Modi asked all the state (and union territories) chief ministers in a virtual meeting to hold a Tika Utsav from April 11-14. This implies that come Sunday, the vaccination drive will go into overdrive, where all the eligible citizens will get inoculated.
The virtual meeting was meant to assess the current situation of the coronavirus pandemic which continues to spread rampantly. The vaccine festival is another effort by the Indian government to get things under control. Even after the Tika Utsav, anti-COVID efforts will continue. The Prime Minister has urged the States to target 100% vaccination for all persons over the age of 45.
Why April 11-14 in particular? Well, April 11 happens to be the birth anniversary of Jyotirao Phule, the social reformer from Maharashtra who led the anti-caste movement. April 14 is Ambedkar Jayanti, which celebrates Babasaheb Ambedkar, another social reformer from Maharashtra who drafted the Indian constitution. The festival is targeting zero vaccine wastage.
Zero vaccine wastage
The Centre has asked states to make the best possible use of the doses after the nation witnessed vaccine wastage of 6.5%. Covaxin and Covishield are the two vaccines being administered in the drive across India. Each Covishield vial has 10 doses in total, while a Covaxin vial contains 20 doses — each dose being 0.5 ml. Once opened, all doses have to be administered within four hours, else they get wasted. The remaining solution in unusable has to be destroyed.
Several states have registered higher levels of wastage as compared to the national average – Telangana lost 17.5% of its doses, Andhra Pradesh 11.6% and Uttar Pradesh lost 9.4%. All this wastage has made campaigns like the vaccine festival a necessity. Modi brought up the issue during his virtual meet. “We have no right to waste a dose which is another person’s right. I urge states to aim for zero vaccine wastage targets,” he said.
AstraZeneca sues SII
British-Swedish vaccine specialist AstraZeneca has sued Serum Institute of India (SII) from Pune over delays in the supply of the COVID-19 vaccine. The notice came after SII failed to meet its delivery obligations to the UK and other countries as a part of the Covax programme. It attributed the delay to the Indian government’s decision to halt the export of the vaccine to prioritise domestic needs temporarily.
SII is manufacturing AstraZeneca-University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine in India, called Covishield. The vaccine is 90% effective against the coronavirus. SII has delivered around 100 million doses to the centre and exported 60 million to date.
Shortage in various States
Meanwhile Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took a jibe at the Tika Utsav by declaring that there is a vaccine shortage, not a festival. However noble the intention, the festival may not take off since there’s an acute shortage of doses in many regions. Chhattisgarh is barely managing its stock while Maharashtra and Odisha have shut down half of their inoculation centres. All states aren’t equal when it comes to allocation of doses from the Centre.
Maharashtra state health minister Rajesh Tope said this week that despite having the highest number of cases, Maharashtra received 7.5 lakh doses, Uttar Pradesh was given 48 lakh doses, Madhya Pradesh 40 lakh, Gujarat 30 lakh and Haryana 24 lakh doses. However, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan tweeted that pan-India 9.1 crore vaccine doses have been utilised, while 2.4 crore are in stock and 1.9 crore vaccines are in the pipeline, indicating there are sufficient doses available for all states.
The COVID-19 vaccination drive has been a crucial turning point in fighting the ongoing pandemic crisis. Countries that have vaccinated more than 30 percent of their populations are noticing a decline in COVID rates. If we want to stop the spread of the invisible but deadly coronavirus, then supporting the vaccination drive and the Tika Utsav is a must.