NEW DELHI, India | A year after imposing the largest containment in the world to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, India must accelerate the vaccination of its population of 1.3 billion inhabitants, as a worrying upsurge in contamination threatens to undermine the efforts already made to overcome the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in March 2020 the total containment of the country to “save every citizen” from the coronavirus, but he pushed onto the roads millions of poor workers who, having lost their jobs overnight, then had to leaving the big cities to return to their countryside, including on foot, some of them encountering death on the way.
The second most populous country in the world has recorded more than 11.7 million cases of COVID-19 and a total of more than 160,000 deaths, making it the third most affected country after the United States and Brazil .
Authorities have been optimistic about their ability to effectively fight the coronavirus, citing the low death rate recorded in the country.
The world’s largest vaccine maker has launched an ambitious campaign to vaccinate 300 million people by the end of July, but is seriously behind schedule with just 50 million people vaccinated so far .
A jump to more than 40,000 new daily infections threatens the progress made as the number of new daily cases fell to less than 9,000 in early February, after the peak of 100,000 per day reached in September. The restrictions have gradually loosened and the economy has been revived.
But the western state of Maharashtra, where the financial capital Bombay is located, is once again hit hard and forced into localized lockdowns and mandatory screenings in high-traffic areas.
“No magic solution”
“We must recognize that we are now facing an increasing number of cases in many parts of the country and vaccination must be one of the key aspects of the strategic response,” health expert Anant Bhan told AFP. public.
The vast South Asian country began by vaccinating frontline health workers, those over 60 and over 45 with comorbid conditions in January. From April, all over 45s will also be affected.
And many specialists advocate the vaccination of a larger population.
Anand Krishnan, professor of community medicine at the Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, says the “bureaucratic approach to vaccination” is hampering the campaign.
Officials must be more flexible, also agree to say other experts interviewed by AFP, and facilitate access to vaccines for the poorest and oldest populations, including in private establishments.
According to them, it is essential to educate communities on the need for vaccination to overcome reluctance. It is also essential to resolve the endemic difficulties of the underfunded health system.
About three million vaccinations a day have been added compared to the original plan, but the campaign remains behind the government’s target.
“We should really go up to ten million vaccinations a day,” Gautam Menon, professor of physics and biology at Ashoka University (Haryana, north) told AFP, “it’s the only thing that will really allow us to overcome the ordeal in the long term ”.
According to specialists, the vaccination campaign could be stepped up in the most affected regions to contain the new wave of contamination. They add that the government should not rely solely on its government application to get people to get vaccinated in a country where access to the internet and cell phones is far from democratized.
But they also recall that barrier gestures remain more essential than ever and warn against mass gatherings, religious, political and others. Because, to put it like Mr. Bhan: “Vaccines are not some sort of magic solution”.