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Kiran Mazumdar Shaw Compared India’s Vaccine Drive To Arranged Marriage. Dr. Harsh Vardhan Assured We’ll Find Perfect Match. Okay Then!

May 17, 2021 | by Jinal Bhatt

Raise your hand if you’ve felt personally victimised by India’s online COVID-19 vaccine booking. *raises both* I kid you not, the countless hours I’ve spent before my laptop, opened to Co-Win website, while my body goes rigid from concentrating too hard on the slots to open has actually left me with bad posture and creaking joints. I even managed to book slots for my brother and me, but due to some random inexplicable system glitch, they got cancelled. Nobody could explain why. And that’s still coming from me, a privileged person, who knows her way around tech and hacks and tricks and Telegram alerts. Can you imagine the plight of those who’re not well versed with technology usage or don’t have the means to access fast internet speed that’ll allow them to book their slots? Perhaps it was this elusive nature of the vaccination drive in India that Biocon Chief Kiran Mazumdar Shaw was talking about when she compared it to arranged marriage!

Yep, she did that.

Whether you’re an active runner in the COVID-19 vaccine slot booking race or not, you’re likely aware of how things are progressing. Those who can afford to pay or use their connections are getting vaccinated, which is okay, but at the detriment of those who desperately need it. People from one part of the state are driving down to its remote parts to take advantage of shorter queues and more availability there, not realising that they are snatching the slots of the people of those very districts or villages! In Maharashtra, the state where the cases were always said to be higher, it is ridiculous that the 18-44 age group has to struggle so much and go through so many pauses and resumptions of the vaccination drive because not enough vaccines are available.

In a jab at this ‘arrangement’ in the country (probably meant to not be taken seriously), Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, who is the founder and chairperson of the Bengaluru based biotechnology company Biocon, tweeted that India’s vaccine drive was like arranged marriage.

I don’t know if I should say ‘luckily’, but I probably will use that word because usually when someone jokes about government policies in our country, they get trolled and slammed, often by ministers and politicians holding positions in the government! But Shaw’s jibe was luckily taken lightheartedly and responded to in the same light-hearted tone by Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri and Dr. Harsh Vardhan.

In fact, Dr. Harsh Vardhan took the analogy even further and said that people needn’t worry, as very soon, Indians will be left with way too many choices, and everyone will definitely find their perfect match.

Back when the vaccination drive began with the first doses being administered to health care workers (HCW) and front line workers (FLW), they didn’t have much choice and were administered either Covishield or Covaxin, depending on availability at the centre they got vaccinated at. However, if you, like me, have been spending too much time on Cowin trying to secure your slot, you will have noticed that Russia’s Sputnik vaccine is now showing up as a filter option, since the booking for this vaccine will be starting this week. Similarly, many other vaccines are slated to arrive in India and be available to us, including the Bio E Sub unit vaccine, the Zydus Cadila DNA vaccine, the Serum Institute’s Covavax and others.

Also Read: Latest Research Shows COVID Vaccine Does Not Affect Placenta In Pregnant Women

However, if you ask me, this arranged marriage analogy is quite wrong, and also taking it in jest belittles a lot of issues around vaccination that need addressing. For starters, the bit about “not being ready”. There is still a massive chunk of the population that does not believe in taking the vaccine, either because they haven’t taken COVID-19 itself seriously, or they’re afraid of getting sick from it and losing out on their daily wages if they get a fever that persists for a day or two. It might seem trivial for people with assured salaries at the end of the month, but for those living a daily hand-to-mouth existence, it is a big deal. Let’s also not forget that not enough workplaces are giving their employees paid vaccination leaves, which like election days, ought to be a mandatory paid leave that offices must give their employees.

As for the awareness that might help dispel any negative rumours about the vaccines, it will have to be a drive in itself, just like the polio vaccine awareness drive that was taken to the farthest nooks of the country and campaigned for aggressively.

Perhaps, once the awareness about vaccination benefits and vaccine efficacy is made available for all, it will help solve the problem of people “not liking the vaccine available to them”. The best vaccine for you is the one that is available to you, and getting too picky about it is plain dumb. Yes, do your research and read up, but ultimately, all vaccines serve the same purpose. There is no vaccine yet that ensures you won’t get COVID at all after taking it. But all vaccines can help alleviate the severity of the infection to a great extent, at least enough that you would be able to manage the symptoms at home or with minimal care instead of needing intensive treatment.

And finally, the bit about the already vaccinated thinking that the other vaccine was better, SERIOUSLY? Refer to above paragraph and jolt some sense into your head, for crying out loud.

If you want to make an analogy, then vaccines are like those oxygen masks that hang down from your airplane seats in case of drop in cabin air pressure. There have to be enough for every single person on the plane, no excuses. And when it drops, take the damn mask and save your ass. Oh, and don’t forget to put your own mask on before you help others.

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Jinal Bhatt

Sharp-tongued feminist. Proud nerd. Opinions with on-point pop-culture references about films, books, your toxic BF, the patriarchy, and the Oxford comma.

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