Seeking to reach out to voters, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his help to procure COVID-19 vaccines so that she can make them available to the people before the upcoming assembly elections free of cost.
A rapid vaccination programme is needed immediately for the interests of health and well-being of all concerned with the election process, Banerjee said in a letter to Modi.
"West Bengal being an election-going state, we are required to reach out practically to every government and para-statal employee on an urgent basis to make the election safe. However, the worrying point is that, in the ensuing elections, the people in general will be forced to go to the polling stations without any vaccination coverage," she wrote to Modi.
"We feel that it is equally important to reach out to them with a rapid vaccination programme immediately for the interest of health and well-being of all concerned," her letter said.
We would request you to kindly take up the matter with appropriate authority, so that the state government is able to purchase the vaccines from designated point(s) on top priority basis, because the West Bengal government wants to provide vaccination free of cost to all the people, she wrote.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Election to the 294-member West Bengal assembly is due in April-May.
The Election Commission has already started inoculation of its personnel involved in holding polls in the state and the process will get over before the elections start.
Till Tuesday at least eight lakh health workers and frontline workers were vaccinated in West Bengal, officials said.
Incidentally BJP, which has emerged as the main opposition to the ruling TMC in the state, had in its manifesto for the assembly poll in neighbouring Bihar promised to provide free COVID-19 vaccine to every person if the National Democratic Alliance returns to power.