One billion doses — India's COVID-19 turnaroundSunday, October 24, 2021
It was in May and June of this year that the second COVID-19 wave struck India. The positive cases ballooned to over 400,000 daily, and deaths increased proportionately. The sudden jump severely strained our medical resources. The highly contagious Delta variant necessitated lockdowns and restricted entry. The vaccination percentage at home remained a low five per cent of the entire population.
Come October 2021, India has crossed the one billion vaccination mark. More than 50 per cent of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. The average daily vaccination rate is 7-8 million doses. India also holds the record of having administered over 25 million vaccine doses in a single day.
Approval has also been granted to the indigenous Covaxin for children in the two to 18 years age group. The rapid vaccination drive, coupled with the containment regulations, has led to recoveries crossing 98 per cent and daily cases falling at least 20 times from the peak numbers. Many countries, including Jamaica, have removed travel restrictions on those travelling from India in light of the improved COVID-19 situation.
The increase in made-in-India COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing to about 250 million doses a month, coupled with the use of foreign-manufactured vaccines, has allowed India to reach these numbers. The ownership by the provinces has allowed for the decentralisation of the COVID-19 response. It has also led to the emergence of various containment models suited to the local conditions and needs. This has also allowed for a swifter response if there is a spurt of COVID-19 cases in any region. One of such models is the Mumbai Model.
Mumbai's large central COVID-19 command centre was scrapped. Instead, small COVID-19 posts were set up in each of the city's 24 wards. These were equipped with ambulances, doctors, telephone operators, containment zones, and basic infrastructure to take the fight to the streets. It was as if 24 Mumbai cities were created instead of one, each equipped to fight the battle against COVID-19.
Final year medical students were roped in to serve, and hotels were requested to provide rooms for quarantine. Those complaining of COVID-19 symptoms were immediately examined and kept in the containment zones. Only those in need of oxygen or displaying complications were sent to the hospitals. It helped to focus the medical resources on the most severe cases, thus saving more lives. The zoning of the city also helped to identify the hot spots and contain them better.
Apart from this, partial and complete lockdowns in different parts of the country, wearing masks, sanitisation, and involving private clinics in vaccination drives have also helped to flatten the curve. The use of grass-roots health-care workers to convince people to take the vaccine and administer it at the doorstep has also proven a game-changer. Businesses, especially IT companies, cooperated by sticking with the work from home directive. But, the people of India deserve the biggest compliment. Not only did they follow the protocols, but the enthusiasm with which they came forward to take the COVID-19 vaccines also has a lot to do with the decrease of COVID-19 cases in India.
India had shared medicines and around 80 million COVID-19 vaccines with other countries under its 'Vaccine Maitri' initiative. With COVID-19 under control, India has started to share the vaccines with others. “The Pharmacy of the World” is again open to service the entire world – whether it's vaccines or medicines. One million doses have already reached Iran, and more are getting sent to Nepal and other countries. It will also help boost the COVAX initiative and will allow increased access to fellow developing countries.
As far as Jamaica is concerned, it has done well in controlling the recent rise in COVID-19 cases through a mix of curfew and vaccination strategies. Jamaica will soon hit the one million mark in administering vaccine doses. However, vaccine hesitancy has meant that many remain vulnerable to COVID-19.
While it is not my place to pressurise people for vaccination, I can only speak from the Indian experience, where an increase in vaccination rate has led to a perceptible fall in new COVID-19 cases and resulting fatalities. In India, like in Jamaica, most of the COVID-19-related deaths are among the unvaccinated. While it is wise to learn from one's own experience, it is even wiser to learn from the experience of others. I only hope and pray that the situation in Jamaica returns to normal at the earliest.
In that, Jamaica will always find a willing partner in India.
His Excellency Rungsung Masakui is India's High Commissioner to Jamaica. Feedback and comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org