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Covid-19 Vaccine

The Dalai Lama being vaccinated at a COVID-19 vaccine centre in the city of Dharamshala, India. Reuters

COVID-19 is now ravaging the villages of India, where about 70 per cent of the population resides. More bodies are floating in rivers; mass graves are being discovered. In rural areas, health is managed through Primary Health Centres (PHCs). According to the Economic Survey of India, 60 per cent of the PHCs have only one doctor, whilst five per cent of them do not have any doctor. Infrastructure is weak in these PHCs.

A PHC frequently consists of two or three rooms, with minimal medical equipment. They are not equipped with ventilators or oxygen facilities. The PHCs face problems of absenteeism among staff, shortage of medicines and long waits for patients. In addition, villagers have to walk two to five kilometres to reach a PHC. How can a patient, afflicted with COVID-19, walk to a PHC?

There are no ambulances in the villages, only the cycle tricycle, called a “rickshaw”, which is also not always available. COVID-19 medicines are difficult to source in the cities; there is no way they will be available in the villages.

Around 60 per cent of Indian medical workers are in the urban areas, leaving the balance 40 per cent to tend to the 70 per cent population in the villages, according to a WHO study in 2016. Studies have shown that besides the shortage of doctors and nurses, many of the medical workers lack the requisite medical qualifications and skills.

In the post COVID-19 period, India must revamp its health sector completely. It spends about 1.2 to 1.6 per cent of the GDP on health. India should ideally spend 8 to 10 per cent of its GDP on health. The government and municipal hospitals in the urban areas and PHCs in villages, need to be thoroughly overhauled.

Villagers cannot be ignored because they do not shout loudly or they are not covered adequately by the urban media.

Rajendra Aneja
Mumbai, India

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