Right to free vaccination – opinion based
The one of the best ways to contain the pandemic is through vaccinating majority of the population and achieving herd immunity. Now that effective vaccines for COVID-19 have been developed and are being distributed to members of the public, it is key for folks to understand the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines and why they greatly outweigh mild potential side effects or inconvenience that may be associated. The aim of vaccination drives has always been to create herd immunity and those who have not been infected can be protected. We have seen two waves and there is possibility of more to come. The second wave by far has been the deadliest one. The loss of life due to scarcity of oxygen, hospital beds and adequate medical structure can never be justified. The herd immunity could be achieved if we are able to vaccinate a large number of people in a short span of time. Frankly, vaccinating yourself seems like the only way to stop covid. As of now we have two vaccines that are under proper production in India (covishield and covaxin) whereas sputnik v has just started.
The countries like united states of America, China, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany to name a few are vaccination their citizens free of cost. When it comes to India the scenario becomes very messy, here vaccination is free, it is paid or is it even available? The Government of India has moral, international and legal obligations make it imperative that COVID-19 vaccines are free and universal. The largest vaccination drive in history has been initiated in India, with free COVID vaccine being administered across the nation only to prioritised beneficiaries which includes three crore healthcare and frontline workers. Even though states like Delhi, West Bengal, Bihar and Kerala have assured free vaccines for everyone, there is no commitment from the central government to ensure that the benefit of vaccination is universal for all Indians. In a country like India, the Centre should ensure that there is a right to free vaccine for all Indians.
In light of the above, if the right to health is a guaranteed fundamental right for an Indian citizen, she also possesses a right to free vaccine as it is a sub-set of the right to life which is guaranteed by our Constitution. Every person has a right to life, right to health and access to medicines is all part of it. This is impliedly part of article 21 of the Indian constitution and article 25 of the universal declaration of human rights. These are not just words as with time and need they have to be prioritized as law, especially in the pandemic situation. The good news is vaccines have arrived in record time but the bad news is every citizen does not have the means to afford it. Despite being home to one of the world’s largest health programmes, vaccinating a billion people for the first time is bound to be a daunting challenge and the government will have to navigate rough administrative, societal and financial terrains.
The vaccine production has been limited, today only eight percent of the population is fully vaccinated with both the doses. The government’s policy for the same was weak on paper earlier and still continues to be weak on ground. Enabling vaccine equity will also lead to long-term financial benefits for the government as the national lockdown wreaked havoc on the economy. A healthy society is directly proportional to a healthy economy. For this, there resides in the government a solemn duty to disseminate the vaccine to counter it for free to all. Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective survival interventions and extending the free vaccine to every individual in the country will inevitably prove to be beneficial for not only the citizens of the country, but also to the state.
Achieving herd immunity through free vaccination will be just addressing the tip of the iceberg as the major roadblock lies ahead of us. If we are able to jumpstart, we may be able to cope up, but longer the delay, the difficult the task becomes. There may come a point in time where vaccination or no vaccination will mean nothing to the people, considering the fact that more than 230 million Indians have fallen back into the vicious circle of poverty, hence not being able to vaccinate themselves. Majority of them belong to labor class and an economic revival without keeping them in loop is next to impossible. The need of the hour is for the central government to address the key issues in its policy and bring radical reforms for the same so that country can be fully vaccinated by December 2021 which, the government is saying is their target respectively.