A jab of hopeThe leaders should work to bring the next lot at the earliest.
Nepal has finally entered the much-awaited phase of the fight against Covid-19 as health workers across the country were inoculated beginning Wednesday. It is a festival, no less, and deserves a celebration. After all, we have spent a gloomy year marked by the deaths of over 2,020 people and the infection of 270,375 people. Not to speak of the economic slump, joblessness, hunger, uncertainty and psychological trauma that came as part and parcel of the pandemic.
The happy faces of the frontline workers who took the jabs on the first day exemplified what hope really looks like. This is the time to acknowledge and appreciate the indomitable spirit with which the frontline workers served throughout the year even as they put their lives at risk.
But we have just begun what is going to be a pretty long and winding return to normalcy. There is a risk of a misinformation campaign about the efficacy of the vaccine and its side effects doing the rounds in the days to come. The campaign might intensify once the government begins inoculating the elderly population after the health workers have received their shots, and we enter the next round. The public information campaign about the importance and efficacy of the vaccine must, therefore, reach the public before it reaches them.
The government must work towards establishing public trust in the vaccines, for mainstream as well as social media can sensationalise even the mildest side effect of the vaccines. Shukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital Director Dr Sagar Rajbhandari deserves applause for leading by example as he got himself jabbed first to ensure that people across the country feel inspired and assured that the vaccine is safe.
The misinformation campaign has, in fact, already begun on the first day of the inoculation drive as Prime Minister KP Oli said the majority of citizens would hopefully be vaccinated within three months. That is a gross overstatement, considering how developed countries such as the UK and the USA expect to finish inoculating their citizens only by Autumn and Summer respectively. Developing countries like ours that are dependent on foreign generosity for acquiring the vaccines will have to wait much longer than that to vaccinate the majority of the people.
The leaders, including the prime minister, should stop telling lies and showering accolades on themselves, and instead help expedite real work towards bringing the next lot of vaccines at the earliest. The least they can do for the time being is cut down on pomposity—and not jump the line like a provincial minister did, sans shame, in Janakpur.
Meanwhile, citizens must remember that it is no time to be lenient on Covid-19 safety protocols. The government is vaccinating less than 1.5 percent of the total population in the first phase, and plans to procure 4 million doses within a month. However, it is yet to sign a pact with any country or company to procure the required vaccines. Rich countries have already pre-booked millions of doses, and the manufacturers are scrambling to supply them within the stipulated time.
In such a scenario, we might have to wait for months to receive the next significant consignment of vaccines. In any case, vaccinating 72 percent of the country's population over several phases is a Herculean logistical feat that takes time, patience and perseverance. We cannot expect to return to normalcy anytime soon, and so we must continue washing hands, wearing masks, and avoiding crowds as far as possible, as the vaccines will take months, if not years, to be effective on a mass scale.