Covid third wave forecast: Let there be no slippage by the Government
New Delhi, May 6: Now that a third wave of Covid-19 in the country, possibly by September, has been forecast authoritatively, there is no reason why the Government should slip in preparations again. The coming three to four months would be crucial for ramping up hospital infrastructure, including medicines, oxygen supply and related equipment. Since the virus has reached the villages, there is a need to create adequate healthcare facilities in mofussil towns and panchayats where patients could be treated.
The focus must be on vaccinating as many people as possible before the third wave comes. At the present rate of vaccination, not more than 20 per cent of people above the age of 18 are likely to receive vaccines by July end. Vaccine shortage is the main reason. This could be addressed by increasing the manufacture of vaccines in the two existing facilities in Pune and Hyderabad while aggressively importing from outside. Russian Sputnik vaccines have already come, albeit in small quantity. Even Moderna and Pfizer may now be made available if the Government pushes for their import.
There is no room for prevaricating on universal vaccination. More and more states are in favour of free vaccination. The Centre should now announce free vaccination to all and take full responsibility for procuring vaccines for the states. Leaving procurement to states would be unwise. Allegations of favouritism are being levelled against manufacturers. So much so, many states could not begin vaccination for 18+ from May 1 for the shortage of vaccines. We are aware of how Adar Poonawala, CEO of Pune based Serum Institute, the major producer of Covishield vaccines, is feeling threatened for not supplying vaccines soon.
The availability of an adequate number of doctors, nurses and other paramedical personnel is very important in the current situation. They are already over-stretched. It is a good decision to draft final year MBBS students in Covid-19 jobs. Similar arrangements should be made in the case of nursing staff. Student nurses on the verge of finishing courses may be deployed on full employment basis, with a provision that they could finish their final examinations later. Serving rural areas should be made more lucrative in the present circumstances. If necessary, it could also be made compulsory in these times. Doctors and nurses could serve in community health centres in villages by turns.
Pertinently, it is worth assessing if a vast army of unemployed youth in villages, boys and girls, could be given short-term training on healthcare on a modicum of monetary compensation to serve the community in crisis situations. Many may feel motivated to serve their own people.
At the present reckoning, let us imagine the third wave with severe intensity if only to prepare ourselves for the worst. If the reverse happens, it would be a bonus. In the process, it could be a boon for villages in terms of improved healthcare facilities. They have been the most neglected lot. The Centre paid only lip service leaving them to the respective states. The state governments, in turn, largely ignored them for lack of funds.
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