The union ministry of health and family Welfare, Govt of India, data suggests a drop of 76,190 cases in the last 24 hours between the 6th and 7th of June 2021, recording a total of 14, 01,609 cases. States such as Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal projected a decline in the total no. of active cases, with a benchmark drop of at least 4,500 cases in the last 24 hours (between 6th and 7th of June).
While such figures serve as a glimmer of hope, if India is to beat the novel coronavirus, robust vaccination uptake is the only answer. However, the country’s progress towards getting vaccinated completely has taken a severe dent due to persistent delays in vaccine procurement, and the inability of the government to plug the demand-supply gap comprehensively.
On the supply side, the Central government claimed that India was producing 85 million doses of vaccines as of May 24th; vaccine uptake has seen a push since, however, the total no. of people fully vaccinated account for a meagre 3.3% of the total population. Furthermore, with the embargo of directing 50% of produced vaccine stock from the Serum Institute and Bharat Bio-tech to the Central Government, it seems unlikely that state governments and private hospitals can ramp up their vaccine stocks in a timely manner to meet demand. Some experts even predicted that even if India vaccinates 1.8 million people per day, it would take roughly 2 years and 8 months to administer doses to 75% of its population assuming that the produced stock is being solely used for domestic purposes.
With a demand-driven and supply-constrained vaccination system, one can only imagine the nerves, and frustration brewing among the population waiting to get inoculated. Now is the time to start striking a dialogue about how stunted vaccine delivery affects public morale and mental health.
Although emphasis has been laid upon prioritization of patients with a history of mental illness for procuring vaccines, the online fatigue, and the impact of restricted movements due to lockdowns on the mental health of individuals; dialogue needs to shift course towards understanding how delayed vaccine uptake can have considerable impacts on mental health.
Having said that, there has been some work done on easing vaccine hesitancy among the public which plays a pivotal role in calming nerves. However, such initiatives will fall through if individuals who may be convinced to get vaccinated now, have to endure the painstaking process of waiting for their turn. Witnessing countless fatalities, multiplication of new variants and the existence of a ‘lottery system’ masquerading as a vaccine delivery system, will only contribute to exacerbating the degree of uncertainty.
In a frustrating scenario where one cannot avail the only remedy which ‘may’ safeguard them from the virus, what does one do to maintain their composure?
The first step is to acknowledge how one feels. Do not run away from how you are feeling due to the current situation to showcase a false sense of bravado; it does more harm than good. Yes, everyone wants to put up a smile or seem unaffected especially in front of their near and dear ones, but when they find out, you feel a certain way without their knowledge; it is bound to affect them initially. Transparency is key, not just at work but also at home.
Upon acknowledging your emotions, understand the current situation in an informed manner. If reading up or cross-checking facts help, go ahead and do that with a reliable source. But, if being informed turns out to be counterproductive then, step back.
Third, reach out to colleagues or friends in the medical field, gauge what they are trying to say and attain a realistic picture of the situation.
What is this realistic picture? Understand current gaps in demand-supply, and try to ask for a tentative timeline for expecting vaccine arrival at hospitals or government centres. Additionally, inquire about vaccination drives they may be aware of- being conducted by societies, companies or other organizations where one may go.
Next, try seeing the positive side of things as much as possible. It is a challenge, no doubt. But, making conscious and actionable changes can go a long way. Lastly, remember that some of the finest minds in the country are devising an optimal manner, in which vaccines can be distributed, have faith in the process as this too shall pass.
Written by Prof. Nabhit Kapur.
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