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A second terrifying wave of Covid-19 has begun to engulf the second largest nation in the world. Case numbers and deaths are rising in India, threatening to overload hospital systems; Mumbai financial capital has restored strict blocking rules. The government, which had gained global goodwill by exporting Indian-made vaccines to over 80 countries, is now sticking to supplies for home use.

With less than 70 million doses delivered so far, though, and a population of more than 1.3 billion, India faces a dizzying challenge. It just doesn’t need more vaccines it needs to find a way to get them into the arms faster.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modis is aware of the urgency and limited policy options in its toolkit. It has opened vaccinations for anyone over the age of 45 and has mandated that all public and private vaccination centers remain open every day. As one of the largest manufacturers of vaccines in the world, the country is fortunate not to face the supply constraints that many other countries do.

Still, the production of two government-approved vaccines Covaxin, by Bharat Biotech International Ltd., and Covishield, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India Pvt. cannot meet Indian and global needs quickly enough. The first thing the government needs to do, then, is speed up the approval of some of the vaccines in use in other countries, including those by Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc. and especially the lighter logistic Johnson & Johnson vaccines. If those companies cannot expand production fast enough, the government should pursue licensing agreements to make their own vaccines in India.

Next, the government needs to rethink how it distributes supplies. Foreign vaccines can be too expensive for the state to buy and distribute freely. That is why the government should allow vaccine manufacturers including AstraZeneca and Bharat Biotech to sell doses in the private market.

Allowing these companies to profit will increase supplies and help scale Indian manufacturing efforts for exports and the future. Meanwhile, the government can continue to offer doses it has purchased for free or, in private vaccination centers, at subsidized prices (currently under $ 4 per shot).

Millions of Indians can afford to pay for faster access to vaccines, perhaps hundreds as millions as private companies are eager to vaccinate their employees and charities have pledged large sums to support the effort. The government would be foolish not to exploit this capacity of the private sector, not least because the rapid vaccination of India’s wealthy youth would help start the economy.

Finally, India must adopt the ‘First Doses’ strategy outlined by economist Alex Tabarrok. The idea is to delay the second dose of two-shot regimens, under the assumption that it is better to increase two Indians from 0% to 76% percent of the defense than to save a second dose to increase an Indian from 76% to 82%. % protection. In fact, the AstraZeneca vaccine is actually more effective if the second shot is given 12 weeks after the first, rather than six weeks.

Recent findings confirm that vaccinating twice as many people also helps slow down mutations, contrary to fears that lower immunity would increase the number of variants. Author and surgeon Atul Gawande recently recommended postponing second doses in the US The Canadian National Advisory Committee on Immunization has strongly favored postponing second shots to 16 weeks. And the UK has been an early leader, offering second doses in 12 weeks rather than four weeks. India can easily do the same.

While rethinking its vaccination strategy, the government should not neglect other security measures, namely the need to encourage social distancing and the wearing of masks. The Indians experienced the worst blockage in the world last year. They are tired and, with local fatality levels at much lower levels than other countries, somewhat complacent. The euphoria surrounding vaccines may also have caused what is known as the Peltzman Effect, where people take greater risks when they perceive a safer situation than originally expected.

Personal precautions are at an all-time low. In connection with the photos of tens of thousands of Indians attending cricket matches without masks, joining political rallies for the upcoming elections or attending celebrations such as Holi have spread as cases are growing. While masks are undoubtedly uncomfortable in hot Indian summer, they should be a must at such events.

The alternative is worse. The government has several other tools to prevent a disaster. Another nationwide deadlock would destroy the economy. And it may not even work: Evidence suggests that in most states, in recent years brutal shutdown was either unnecessary or unsuccessful in curbing broadcasting. Until more vaccines come on the market, Indians have no chance of forgetting how dangerous Covid-19 remains.

Shruti Rajagopalan is a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

This story has been published by a wire agency source with no changes to the text. Only the title has been changed.

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