The battle against the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. Although, the daily number of positive figures and positivity rate as against the number of tests performed had come down considerably in recent days it is still more like a see-saw. Whenever the daily positive numbers and positivity rate comes down we breathe a sigh of relief, but somehow it is always short-lived. On Wednesday, it was 270 positives and two deaths and Thursday it was 299 positives and six deaths. This tells us that we cannot afford to be complacent. So, the best option is to go on with the aggressive drive of vaccination. The current strategy of ‘trace, test and treat’ needs to re-orient with the changing scenario. The other day, the Chief Minister N Biren Singh announced that Jiribam being the first district to fully vaccinate its eligible population would be awarded Rs 20 lakh as announced earlier. Full vaccination actually means both doses of the vaccine, but what is more important is the first vaccination which clears the way for the second dose, meaning the vaccine hesitancy among the general population has been overcomed.
We are glad that the state had changed tack in the vaccination drive. Sometime ago, we did some loud thinking on the current state of vaccine hesitancy among the general populace and what we are doing about it. By ‘we’ we mean the state, the CSOs and the media in general. Have we exhausted all our imagination and efforts in trying to convince the public to come out willingly or voluntarily to take the Covid-19 vaccine? Yes, we agree rumours are going around and some people are using social media to post their hesitancy and reluctance which might be due to either sheer ignorance or the deaths after vaccination and the adverse effects. We would like to reiterate once again that the matter cannot be resolved by arresting them or putting them in jail and for that matter putting undue pressure on media freedom.
The mainstream media should not be expected to suppress information which is meant to bring more awareness of the overall scenario surrounding the pandemic to the general public. Rather, we should be questioning ourselves as to what had gone wrong in the convincing part and what all needs to be done to convince them at all. If we look back to the history of plagues and pandemics which had ravaged the world since time immemorial, we should be thanking the scientific community of today for developing a vaccine or versions of it so fast within a year. All we have to be thankful now is the development of vaccines. Some of them are still undergoing trials. That is exactly why we have to respect the misgivings or concerns of certain people among us. And the looming threat of a third wave is also driving many people to get themselves vaccinated.
The state has now given the responsibility of ensuring vaccination of all eligible persons to the MLAs in their respective constituencies. The chief minister himself is doing the rounds in his constituency to encourage people to come out and get themselves vaccinated. Likewise, most of the MLAs and Ministers are in the field now. It should have been done long back. Running a Community Home Isolation Centre (CHIC) is an expensive affair and if the centres continue to be filled up with positive people, the expenses will continue. So, a full-scale vaccination effort is more prudent if we have to fight back the pandemic, as well as preparing for the possible third wave. The Centre has taken care of procuring the vaccines and people are getting it free with the state rolling out its full machinery and health infrastructure to avail vaccine services in every constituency. This opportunity should not be missed. One more important thing, saying the vaccine is safe in spite of a few adverse effects is just not enough to convince the superstitious folk. Some sort of guarantee should anything befall one after taking the vaccine is perhaps needed at this juncture. Not everyone dies after taking the shot, but even one or two deaths is enough to scare away the rest. But, these deaths had to be scientifically explained for the benefit of the doubters.