Q) Enlist the challenges that India faces in complete elimination of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Suggest measures to deal with these challenges. (150 Words)
Source: The Hindu OPED: Redefining the exit plan for COVID-19
Topic: GS 2: Issues relating to the development and management of social sector/services relating to Health, Education, Human resources.
Introduction: Despite the availability of vaccines the eradication of a communicable disease is not ensured by itself. For example some preventable diseases still remain major public health challenges in the developing world. Polio was eradicated from southeast Asia, is still endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Maternal and neonatal tetanus, which has an 80% to 100% case fatality rate, caused deaths of nearly 25,000 newborns in 2018.
Similarly, the goal of zero COVID-19 cases is also challenging since the virus continues to be in circulation in other countries.
The Challenges in complete eradication of COVID-19:
1. Risk from New Strains: The risk of infection from elsewhere, and thus outbreaks, would always be imminent. There are multiple strains of the COVID 19 with varying complications such as the British strain, Brazilian strain and the South African strain
2. Risk of partial coverage: There has to be universal coverage of vaccines with consistent upgrades, as the pace of vaccine development may not match the new variants’ emergence. So long as disease control is neglected in even a few parts of the world, every other part is at risk of importing infections due to free travel.
3. Vaccine hesitancy: delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services. This would lead to partial coverage of vaccination.
4. Availability of Vaccines: There is a limited supply of the COVID-19 vaccines, of this a big chunk is being exported thus the production bottlenecks could be a cause of concern.
5. Logistics Challenge of Vaccination: The transport and storage of vaccine along with management of the vaccination program at the grass-root level is a challenge, from listing of participants to ensure their vaccination.
6. Global inequalities: A zero-COVID-19 strategy will worsen global health inequities by creating green zones of free travel among richer countries, thus alienating poorer nations.
7. Post COVID complications: For example Fibrosis in lungs.
Measures to address these challenges:
1. Utilization of existing supply chains efficiently: The government can boost production by licencing the vaccines and producing vaccines through other companies.
2. Addressing Vaccine hesitancy: Only a collaborative effort between paediatricians, family doctors, parents, public health officials, governments, the technology sector, and civil society will allow myths and misinformation around vaccination to be dispelled.
a. Dispelling fake news: This can be done with enhancing penetration of right news.
b. Educating the general public: at schools, through advertisement and social media. A good logical argument for vaccination would develop a better attitude towards the vaccination.
c. Establishing Faith through Transparency: Trust in a scientific process can be established with confidence-building measures and full disclosure of all relevant data.
3. Supporting friends and neighbours to supply vaccines: India can supply vaccines to those countries to which significant chunk of Indian population travels.
4. Tracking new strains continuously: Through investment into researches
Conclusion: India's domestic Vaccine production centres have worked well in producing vaccines and the cold storages have further helped in logistics till now. However more needs to be done to remove vaccine hesitancy. Further, the efforts of the Indian government to supply vaccines under Vaccine Maitrai program is commendable in this regard.