Now that Bangladesh has provided its first regulatory approval (although still ‘for emergency use only’) of a vaccine for COVID-19, one may truly start looking forward to the end of the pandemic on our shores – although inherent to the nature of pandemics is the fact that for anyone in any corner of the earth to be truly safe, the disease must be eradicated everywhere else as well. To be sure, the job for us all collectively does not end with the discovery of the vaccine, or even its procurement in bulk. Vaccine rollout has emerged as a topic of legitimate concern in light of the pandemic, and the vaccination programmes now underway in many nations - mostly the rich ones - and soon to be witnessed now in ours, is really where the various governments and administrations, be they local or national, will have to prove their mettle.
It is, at the national level, an exercise that will test everything from a government’s authority to its ability to coordinate, strategise and bring the people ‘on board’. There is even some scope to demonstrate creative thinking – witness the UK’s decision, in the throes of a frightening jump in cases since Christmas, to extend the gap between the initial shot of the vaccine and the booster. It allows for a greater number of people to have that initial dose, which on its own provides a significant amount of protection, while they fight the sheer spike (forgive the pun) in the caseload they are dealing with, that has left hospitals and emergency services under the vaunted National Health Service reeling in the past few weeks.
We await to see how our government manages the rollout. Bear in mind there should be nothing to daunt us. Both Bangladesh and India have impressive and extensive records in vaccination programmes, some of which are implemented on annual basis. I am confident that as long as the supply chain issues are managed efficiently (the propensity for scams, as we have already witnessed unfortunately, is barely dimmed during a pandemic) and we can keep the process free of bureaucratic entanglement, gradually we can approach the level of immunisation required for our population to acquire herd immunity.
I would also think twice or even thrice before scoffing at the idea of not putting all our eggs in that one basket, in this case the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine that we will be procuring from their licensed manufacturer in India, the Serum Institute. Sure, the early scare this week that India was banning vaccine export by its companies turned out to be overblown, but there is nothing to say they will not do so in future – understandably so, for a population well over 1 billion. So we would do well to keep our eyes and ears open for alternatives, even the ones on offer from China and Russia. The last thing we need right now, is to close our minds to viable solutiuons.