Covid 19 vaccination and challenges in India: Ahead of world’s largest vaccine drive, medical experts explain what to expect

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New Delhi | January 14, 2021 2:12 PM

Covid 19 vaccination in India: Assuring that both the Covaxin and Covishield "have established their safety and immunogenicity through a well prescribed regulatory process", the Government of India has procured 110 lakh doses of Covishield and 55 lakh doses of Covaxin.

Covid 19 vaccine India Covishield Covaxin VaccinationCovid 19 vaccine in India: Covid 19 vaccines are being transported to all states and UTs (Image courtesy - AIR News Ladakh-Prasarbharti Twitter)

Covid vaccination in India: People in India are eagerly waiting for the World’s largest Covid vaccination drive, scheduled to commence on January 16. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi will formally launch the Covid vaccination programme, the beneficiaries have been advised to follow the norms. India has given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for homegrown Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Serum Institue of India’s version of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine Covishield following recommendations by a Subject Expert Committee set up by the Drugs Controller General of India.

Assuring that both the Covaxin and Covishield “have established their safety and immunogenicity through a well prescribed regulatory process”, the Government of India has procured 110 lakh doses of Covishield and 55 lakh doses of Covaxin. Covid vaccine roll out in India will be sequential with health care workers will be on the top priority, followed by frontline workers and prioritized age groups. It must be noted that the cost of vaccination for health care workers and frontline workers will be borne by the central government.

The government of India has advised people to receive the complete schedule of two doses irrespective of past history of infection with COVID-19 as this will help in developing a protective immune response against the disease. Vaccine receivers will need a photo ID for the registration which will be verified at the vaccination site. It is mandatory to carry the same ID at the vaccination site to get the vaccine. People must remember that there will be no provision for on-the-spot COVID Vaccine registration at the session sites as only pre-registered COVID-19 vaccine beneficiaries will be vaccinated as per their allotted date, time, and schedule.

The central government has mentioned the five key principles for COVID19 vaccination. These are – ensure people’s participation, utilize the experience of elections and universal immunization program, no compromise on scientific and regulatory norms, and no compromise of existing healthcare services. Apart from people, and the central and state governments, medical experts are also eagerly waiting for the watershed moment.

“The preparations for vaccine roll out in India are going on in full swing, with vaccine approvals given and impending transport from the manufacturer. The Government has in the meantime, organised dry runs that will help in ironing out many on-the-ground hitches as well what fire fighting will be needed in a real-time problem. Given that it is winter in India and the Oxford vaccine can be stored at fridge temperature of 2-8 °C, the beginning of vaccination is anticipated to be smooth,” Dr. Amitabha Ghosh, Senior Consultant-Internal Medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital, said.

However, in a country like India, operational issues such as crowd management can pose significant challenges for the care providers administering the vaccine. Besides, informing the front line workers, who will be eligible for the first roll out, we need to educate all stakeholders regarding the efficacy and safety of the vaccines. Vaccine centers will be equipped to handle any emergency fall out of vaccination with ready access to medicines, equipment including ambulances in the remote possibility of any reaction. Side effects like a sore arm or mild fever are expected with any vaccination but we do not expect any adverse reaction. So we advise people to go ahead and register on the app as soon as it is made available and await your first shot. But a warning, PLEASE CONTINUE WITH MASKS, HAND HYGIENE AND SOCIAL DISTANCING,” Dr. Ghosh said.

“Vaccination in India is expected to start from January 16. We all know it’s a humongous exercise but good thing is that we are used to massive vaccination drive especially the part of our Indradhanush scheme. We also witnessed polio vaccination program, where millions of volunteers and healthcare workers used to vaccinate children on every polio Sunday. We do have the experience to that but we are looking forward to vaccinating about 300 million people by the end of August. It is a massive exercise, no doubt but it will be helped by our good network of healthcare providers. In the beginning, only two types of vaccines will be available in India. The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is an adenovirus vaccine, whereas, the Bharat Biotech vaccine is an inactivated virus vaccine. I would urge all to register themselves and get vaccinated as and when their turns come and the government communicates with you,” Dr. Shuchin Bajaj, Founder, and Director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, New Delhi said.

“It has been announced that from January 16 onwards, the vaccination drive for COVID-19 will start all over India by the Prime Minister. It’s a great achievement. Nowhere it has happened in the history of the world that a vaccine was developed at such a fast speed. The vaccines look very promising and the side effects are not significant enough. So, we should get good results from the Covid vaccine, once the vaccination process starts. There are some questions raised that whether we have developed herd immunity as Indians and need vaccinations? It’s still not clear whether immunity is developed after a person gets infected because reinfections have also been seen with COVID-19. Vaccination is the only way through which we can protect ourselves from Covid-19,” Dr. P Venkata Krishnan, Senior Consultant- Internal Medicine, Paras Hospital said.

The government has decided to do vaccination in a phased manner. Initially, the healthcare workers and those who are at the highest risk of contracting the infection will administer the vaccination first followed by the elderly and other general populations. India is leading the process of vaccine development all over the world. It’s soon going to become the hub of the COVID vaccine for the entire world. After getting the vaccination, it doesn’t mean that we should immediately get back to our normal life, stop wearing masks, start socializing. The efficacy of the vaccination will be a bit questionable. Things will take time to come to normalcy but the fear of COVID-19 will be significantly reduced,” Dr. P Venkata Krishnan said.

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