Opinion | I am a Student. Is my Safety no more a Priority?
Pediatricians, at the Government of Medical College in Kozhikode, wear dismay on their face. "There is no reason to delay vaccination among children as they were unlikely to get side-effects like elders." They proclaimed. "We must act now, before it is too late."
On the 1st of May, India heralded its spirit, as the country was ready to pace in exasperation what’s often cited as the world’s largest vaccination drive by permitting all above the age of 18 to get the jab, though slow but steady. India reassured its adult citizens of normal times dawning soon amid the peak of a very devastating second wave.
Just several months ago when the Indian Healthcare system was on the verge of ruin, reeling under an acute shortage of oxygen supplies, ventilators and beds, Sight of physicians watching helplessly as patients perished from preventable deaths, Indians gasping for breath being turned away from the battered hospitals and social media being filled with urgent requests for medical aid and leads for a spot in the overrun crematoriums -where their metal structures started to melt due to the mass burning of funeral pyres- was unavoidable to see in what’s often lauded as the world’s “pharmacy”, the largest. To say the least, the worst fears of Indians were coming true.
Easily forgotten, out of the victims of this carnage, many were children. The infections surged drastically amongst the minors too, and so did the number of pretermitted orphans and their fatalities, so much so that even the states had to issue statements regarding inopportune closure of schools due to the nearly-no attendance of students in classes, taking place on online platforms.
Stories of innocence are where you find them, but any number seems to begin with children. The students which came of age in a glade dappled by a world of make-believe now were the casualties of phantasm savagery, brandished by incompetence. I am an eyewitness to the sight of half-empty classes. The silence in those classes, which once embodied the characteristics of gusto and zest, now shouted in delirium. You know hope and belief of students has been lost when hundreds wait for the next day in fear, I was just one of the many.
And even after firm anticipation inferred by the experts indicating us of a surfacing third wave in India and a bleak prophecy of it being especially, all the way more gruesome and graver for us as non-adults is a portent ill omen, largely based on the presumption that we are proportionally more likely to be unvaccinated compared to adults, still no Indian vaccine has received approval for citizens belonging to our age group. I write this as vaccinations have already started with fervor ranging from wealthy, like the US, Canada and Germany to middle-income countries of the Philippines and Chile, for the mentioned or a variable-sub age group below 18 years.
However, it only tingles when India, being the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, hasn’t still seen inoculating or even approving vaccines for its children as an idea worth considering, at a time when this is the only way for all of us to thwart this viral juggernaut.
These actions display a sheer contempt for the safety of the most vulnerable section of the society, a population whose numbers are greater in India than even the entire population of the world’s third most populous country, The United States. I am a student, and it’s of deep repugnance for me to look children my age being swept away by the virus which the rest of the population is being shielded against in vehemence. Vaccine Inequities and callousness are killing us.
I am drenched grieving in a period of national mourning and an inchoate protest within myself, and yet it still pales when images flashing on our screens display the entrenched grief and suffering of those who have had to lose the youngest members of their families.
For now, I see no respite for myself or for the rest of the Indian citizens who account for approximately 41% of the total populace.
The crisis has already demonstrated that the world’s most vibrant youth is now made to become brittle, the question at this moment is what it will endure before it begins to crack. Thinking about this, I was aware for the first time that I was no longer seen as just a frugal student, no longer just a mere child who could be shunned. I was a derelict undervalued life. All I hanker about is that India shouldn’t take another apocalypse to value its young.
I can’t help but out of a habit of mind place my faith on the shoulders of my country’s administration. I might be clinging to the idea that in the world’s largest democracy -where historically little value has been given to the autonomy of its youngest occupants, innately- I will be answered when I ask what despised students across the country are asking:-
Is our safety no more a priority?