India set for Covid-19 vaccine roll-out from January 16

All preparations are on track for Covid-19 vaccine roll-out from Jan 16. So far 26 virtual meetings/trainings held with states/UTs on the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines. Different category of professionals will be required for discharge of their specified responsibilities.
|| Ann Mary Philip

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan in course of a press briefing stated that 54,72,000 doses of vaccine have been received and all the doses, consisting of 1.1 crore doses from Serum Institute of India (SII) and 55 lakh doses from Bharat Biotech India Limited (BBIL), will be received in all states and UTs by Thursday Jan 14.

We’re beginning to see the last mile problems, the ultimate delivery of a product to a person, which come with such an ambitious vaccination campaign. If you are within the priority group, you will soon be receiving your dose of vaccine. But, do you know, which vaccine you will be getting? Whether it will be Serum Institute’s Covishield or Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin? And if you have any say in the matter? There is no clarity on how many people will receive which vaccine. Covishield is the same vaccine that has been used in countries like UK and the efficacy of the same is said to be around 70%. But the efficacy of Covaxin remains unknown. It’s a question of, do we take of faith or hope? or do we take it on the basis of data?

Both vaccines have received restricted use approval in an emergency situation. It simply means it should be used in very monitored fashion in a large population. Final approval will be granted only after the completion of the trials and analysis of full data. Until then, the EUA allows the vaccine to be used on public. The necessary data on both the vaccine is still not available in the public domain and it has raised eyebrows in the scientific community which has questioned the hasty approval.

Union Health MinisterDr Harsh Vardhan said that authorization of Covaxin is differently conditional and all recipients would be tracked and monitored as if they are in trial. Does it mean that the vaccine is being tested on people as they are receiving their shots? In the absence of the efficacy, the implication of this process could be life threatening. Will it be possible for the authority to track and monitor each and every case if Covaxin is given to a larger population? Little is known about the vaccination strategy of the government which is of great concern.

Who will get Covaxin and who gets Covishield?

The union health ministry on 12th January said that the health care and frontline workers will have no option to choose from the two vaccines. In a joint press conference by the health ministry and the NITI Aayog, officials clarified that the two doses of the vaccine will be administered 28 days apart. The vaccine is expected to offer protection 14 days from the second dose is given. The health ministry also added that the recipients will receive a message a day before their inoculation. The vaccine will be not mandatory. However, it is advisable to take and complete the dose in order to protect yourself from the virus. The government aims to vaccinate 30 crore priority population by July, which includes frontline health works, essential duty personnel and vulnerable sections of population. The first batch of 3 crore people will be given the shot of vaccine by March.

When would the vaccine be provided to the poor? The government also needs to tell whether it would be free of cost or they will have to pay for it. The main challenge would be related to the distribution. India produces more vaccines than any country but it lacks a delivery system, for adults apart from pregnant women. It would be a challenging task for the government to put in place a strategy to ensure vaccine reaches every nook and corner of the country. The country may need repeated waves of vaccination based on priority groups and it could take at least two years for all Indians to receive doses.

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