Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant’s announcement of having all in the age group of 18 to 44 years vaccinated by the end of next month depends entirely on the availability of vaccines and those, as has already been seen, are in short supply. Goa has managed to get less than 10 per cent of the quantity it had ordered. The State had placed an order of 5 lakh doses of Covishield with Serum Institute of India but in the first consignment received 32,870 vaccines and was then informed that it had been allocated another 36,580 vaccine doses for persons in the 18-44 age group.
To meet the aim to vaccinate the entire population between the ages of 18 and 44, Goa would need about 6.5 lakh vaccines for the age group of 18 to 44 years. From where would it get this number of doses, when it has not been able to get even a lakh of them yet? Further, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi now announcing that the Centre will be taking over procurement of vaccines for all above the age of 18 years, after requests from many States for free vaccination, and that the new guidelines for distribution of the vaccine will be in force within two weeks, Goa’s plans for 100 per cent jabs by July 30 meets yet another hurdle.
States will no longer be able to purchase vaccinations but will have to entirely depend on the allocation by the Centre of vaccines. From May 1 States had been allowed to procure 25 per cent of the vaccine production from Indian manufacturers, but the Centre will now procure 75 per cent of the production and distribute it to States, leaving 25 per cent to be procured by private hospitals directly from the manufacturers. The aim of 100 per cent vaccination in Goa by the end of July therefore now appears to be further away than it was last week when the Chief Minister made the announcement.
State governments may now not have to struggle to procure vaccines, but will now be entirely dependent on the Centre’s allotment. Not that Goa’s experience of purchasing its own vaccines had been a success. On the other hand it could be deemed to be a failure. Last week the State received four boxes of vaccines, the number was not revealed.
There is another hurdle that the government will face, which is the hesitancy that some people display in receiving the vaccination. By the Chief Minister’s own admission, despite the government widening the scope for vaccination, people are not coming forward. For that matter, Goa received 32,870 vaccines for the age group of 18 to 44 years and started administering these doses from May 15, but it still has over 5000 doses remaining, which indicates that the number of people seeking to be inoculated is less. If Goa does aim to make a record of being the first State to get 100 per cent of its eligible population vaccinated against Covid-19, it has a major task ahead of it.
The aim should be to have the eligible population receive the jab as quickly as possible and refrain from announcing deadlines. It may make good sense for the government to have a target date so that the administration works towards meeting it, but announcing it and then not delivering, shows up the government as not being able to meet its own objectives. From now on the State has to ensure that the eligible population comes out and receives the jab. The local elected representatives have to be made to go out and convince the people on this. That is the only way it can happen.