States should learn from Bihar how to vaccinate effectively

Bihar is the most loathed Indian state. The slang Bihari has been used as a synonym of Bimari (disease), ever since the state was carved out of Bengal in 1912. Yet when it comes to handling the Mahamari (pandemic), it has not only proved effective but also became a role model in vaccination by leading the country in inoculating the 18-44 age group.

When the public vaccination process started in March, Bihar was the only state in India where the vaccination at private hospitals was free. The state Government bore the cost of vaccination at private facilities, while in all other states people had to shell out Rs. 250 for getting a jab.

Despite a modest start in the vaccination numbers (primarily due to vaccine hesitancy in the beginning), the state has been constantly vaccinating at a average rate of over 1 lakh doses/day. This doubled to 2 lakh doses/day during the Teeka Utsav (Vaccine Festival) announced by Central Govt on April 12-14.

Seven Day Moving Average of Daily Vaccination in Bihar

After the decentralized vaccination policy was announced on April 19, the state immediately placed orders with the manufacturers. This was the time when other states were busy making political excuses of vaccine unavailability. The state also earmarked Rs. 4000 crore budget for procuring vaccines for the age group 18-44.

Despite having a week delay in the vaccine rollout for age group 18-44 in the state, the vaccination proceeded swiftly. Within a month, the state managed to vaccinate the age group of 18-44 in large numbers and today it stands at highest position in vaccinating 18-44 age group. Till May 25, Bihar had managed to administer 14.8 lakh doses in this age group, followed by Rajasthan (14.5 lakh doses).

Vaccination in progress in a camp in Bihar
Vaccination in progress in a camp in Bihar

For a state like Bihar, which stands at lowest (33rd) position in the country in terms of per capita income, this is a marvelous milestone. If Bihar has to be made the benchmark for model vaccination, other states have failed to achieve their potential vaccination targets by huge margins.

It is noteworthy that the vaccine procurement has a state wise quota. It depends on several factors which includes population, number of Active Cases and the Test Positivity Ratio. While Bihar has a significant population, the number of active COVID cases and the Test Positivity Ratio has only been comparatively low but also below the national average, even during the second wave.

In terms of vaccine wastage, Bihar again places itself among top 5 states with lowest vaccine wastage. The vaccine wastage of Bihar is 4.9%, which is much below the national average wastage of 6.3%. In contrast, the neighbouring Jharkhand has reported 37.3% vaccine wastage.

These are the things, the rich states should learn from Bihar. The state accepts its poor health infrastructure, its inefficiencies, its low GDP, but does not turn them into excuses. It does whatever possible to overshadow those weaknesses. There is a decisive will, a desire to act and this helps the state in trumping the logistic problems it faces due to variety of reasons. We heard a lot about Delhi model and Kerala model, thanks to massive PR. Well, here is a Bihar model, simple yet efficient, and anyone is free to adopt it.