In August, Mr. Modi’s government created an expert group staffed largely with federal bureaucrats to formulate India’s vaccine rollout policy. It did not allow Indian state governments to make independent decisions or consider the views and experiences of state authorities and community leaders. Its cardinal mistake was failing to tap the decades-old and highly efficient national immunization program networks and following its best practices.
The focus on online registrations ignored a fundamental fact: More than half of the Indian population doesn’t have access to the internet, computers or smartphones. Reports in the Indian press suggest a stark class divide in the vaccination drive: The middle and upper classes arrived at the vaccination centers in much greater numbers than the urban and rural poor.
Mr. Modi’s vaccine rollout group proceeded to limit the first phase of the vaccination program to India’s public health system, which caters to about one-third of the population, and left out the privately run health care facilities, which two-thirds of the population rely on. The wise members of the expert group also limited the vaccination sessions to 100 people per session at a facility, which slowed down the process.
As of March 10, 54 days into the drive, India had administered 25 million doses of the vaccine. In number of doses administered, India is third after the United States and Britain, but it still covers merely 1 percent of the country’s 1.3 billion people.