If the Cowin portal is a blessing, many are yet to be blessed in Dehradun

New game in town is to chase vaccines. Log in, wait, check the black cross, reboot. The worst sufferers are those without Internet access, smart phones and little or no knowledge of English of course

Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@SweetYadavIYC
Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@SweetYadavIYC
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Ranjona Banerji

Early this Saturday morning, my father received an SMS from India’s health ministry, asking him to make an appointment for his second vaccine dose. My Father is one of the lucky ones. He had his second dose some eight weeks ago. On what basis India’s world-famous vaccine-booking portal does not know this already, I do not know.

What I do know is that from early in the morning, every single day, I have become obsessed with vaccines. There’s the mandatory doom-scrolling, where every bit of bad news about Covid19 has to be devoured, and then there’s vaccine tracking.

Don’t you have anything else to talk about? That is what people might ask if I were to meet people. Thanks to all our self-perpetuating lockdowns, I have almost nothing to say to the few people I live with, and others do not cross the threshold. As for our small group of lockdown communicators, we also want to know about vaccines.

I play that game that so many people now have to play. Get on to the government website. Put in your pin code. And then wait patiently to find out that there are no vaccines and if there are vaccines, there are no slots. I do this not for myself, but for some under 45s who are not net-savvy and do not own smart phones. Yes, such people do exist.

This morning game takes about 30 minutes which is when I give up. The vaccine tracking then begins. The village Pradhan says next week. Someone sends me information about availability but sadly it’s all miles away. The big fat black crosses and “not available” have become like friends to me now.

The rest of the day is spent like every other day. How many doses given worldwide, first dose and second dose both? The answers are dismal, all that is clear is that India has managed just over 10 percent of a single dose while Israel tops the charts at over 60 percent.

Which vaccine works best against which variant? The jury could be anywhere on this. The Delta variant (formerly known as Indian, also as B.I.167) is highly infectious, spreading everywhere. And what is clear is that one vaccine dose – any vaccine – is not good enough and no vaccine is hell. Which vaccine allows you to travel internationally and which doesn’t? Not good news so far for all Indians who have taken Covaxin.

And so on. You can do this every day because the answers sometimes change. Percentages shift slightly. New inventions are announced. New mistakes are made. The problem of the lab in Wuhan, China waxes and wanes almost with the moon. Sometimes the lab did it. Sometimes the lab didn’t.

But this much is clear: for recovery, whether in health alone or in life in general, we need to be vaccinated, now and faster. Even the untested vaccine foisted on us for nationalistic reasons is better protection than no vaccine at all.

There’s a lot of anger and handwringing over people willing to pay high prices for vaccines, at private enterprises running expensive vaccine camps. Why, I ask you, are you angry? What did you think would happen?

The minute the Central government gave up on its responsibility to vaccinate the whole country for free or at a low price, chaos was bound to ensue. Vaccine procurement and disbursement got complicated and confused. Narendra Modi-led Centre kept the reins in its hands and then instructed the states to fend for themselves. It also opened up the age-group of 18 to 44 to the waves and whims of the private sector with inexplicable differential pricing.

Our Bearded Wonder can waft about trying to breathe in whiffs of praise from his brainless fan club but all the current chaos in India is on him. His government informed us that Covid19 had been vanquished, that vaccinations were not needed because of said vanquishing and then did not bother to order enough vaccines because some poor sod probably believed their own propaganda.

You know this. I know this. The fairy tales about “enough vaccines for India” are now massive gusts of hot air directed at us from different vaccine sources. It might happen later in June this year. It might happen in July-August this year. It might happen by the end of 2021.

And it might not.

Meanwhile. You know the drill. Open the site. Put in your pin code. Look at the black crosses.

Reboot.

Rewind.

This is my life measured out in fury.

(The writer is a columnist and commentator based at Dehradun. Views are personal)

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