India must plan ahead for rolling out Covid-19 vaccination; Nilekani’s suggestion of Aadhaar-like model worth considering
Vaccinating populations against SARS-CoV-2—when the vaccine does become available—will be a formidable challenge for any nation. Even though India runs one of the largest vaccine exercises in the world (the anti-polio campaign), Covid-19 vaccination is a different ball game altogether. It is important, therefore, that India readies its plan to do this now, so that the process doesn’t turn chaotic later. While India needs to draw up a scientifically estimate of what threshold of the population it needs to vaccinate when vaccination is rolled out to stall the disease, even if 70% of the population is to be targeted, it would still mean covering close to a billion people. And, a multiple-dose requirement will complicate matters further.
While all this may not be possible without leveraging technology, chairman of Infosys and former UIDAI chief, Nandan Nilekani, in an interview with Economic Times, has proposed that the government needs to follow an Aadhaar-styled model if it is to vaccinate that many people. This would entail hiring private guys and giving them incentives to vaccinate more and more people. The government will also need to ensure that people are not fleeced. This can be done by using biometric authentication and regular updating of databases. More important, there also needs to be a discussion on pricing. Should everyone get the vaccine for free or should those who have the ability to pay be asked to pay. And, if so, how? Unless the government figures these key issues out early, it will be struggling once the vaccine is here.