Experts recommend vaccinating around 50% of India’s population on priority to be prepared for Covid third wave

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Updated: July 21, 2021 11:45 AM

Currently, more than 42.15 crore vaccine doses have been provided to States and UTs so far, through all sources and a further 71,40,000 doses are in the pipeline.

Covid-19, Vaccination Drive, OMAG, AHPIHealth experts have recommended timely inoculation of Indian population towards Covid third wave preparedness. (Photo by Umesh Goswami)

Even as Covid-19 third wave is imminent with only 21 % of population vaccinated in the seventh month of vaccination drive, experts recommend vaccinating 50% of India’s nearly 140 crore population on priority as people already infected with the virus may not require it urgently. Around 69 crore population is already infected with the virus as per health ministry official reports.

Health experts have therefore recommended timely inoculation of Indian population towards Covid-19 third wave preparedness. There is a need to vaccinate 90 % of the eligible population of 18 and above by December 31, 2021. Though, Government has also committed to provide guaranteed vaccination doses to the tune of 168 crore by September 2021, this is way behind the requirement of 188 crore vaccines for the 94 crore eligible population of 18 and above.

Around 21% people in India have been vaccinated with first dose and 5% fully vaccinated in the past 6 months and 79% remains to be vaccinated in the next six months.
Need for inoculating 50% population on priority can also be corroborated by the findings of sero surveillance studies done in the country in the month of January 2021, based on the samples drawn countrywide which revealed around 30% people were found Covid -19 positive. Sero surveys done also at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi with World Health Organization (WHO) and at AIIMS, Bhopal has also revealed 75% and 77% population is infected with Covid -19 virus respectively and therefore this population will have to wait for another 8 months to 12 months to be vaccinated. Sero Surveys data collected by the Union Health Ministry in Uttar Pradesh (UP) also revealed 55% Covid-19 positive cases.

According to Dr. Ishwar Gilada, Consultant in HIV and infectious diseases and Secretary General, Organised Medicine Academic Guild (OMAG), “Immunity can come from both vaccination and infection so those infected do not need vaccination, as per scientific studies. According to NITI Aayog Member, Health, Dr V K Paul, India could be missing 23 infections for every reported Covid-19 case in the country and as per official records also, currently, only 3 crore 11 lakh people are already infected. So, there is ample clarity that we have around 69 crore population which is already infected with virus and can do away with vaccination thus helping plug the demand supply gap in some way. The window period for the virus in an infected person is 8 to 12 months.”

OMAG is a federal body of 15 professional associations of post graduate doctors in India, covering 250,000 consultants. OMAG provides technical guidance to central, state and local administrations.

Currently, more than 42.15 crore vaccine doses have been provided to States and Union Territories (UTs) so far, through all sources and a further 71,40,000 doses are in the pipeline.

Says Dr Girdhar Gyani, Director General, Association of Healthcare Providers of India (AHPI), “We need to inoculate 10 million every day but we do not have that much production in the country. We have not been able to import the vaccine from the USA and Europe. The gap will remain until we get regularise production of Sputnik and Zydus among others. Luckily, around 25% of Indian population is not coming forward for vaccination and therefore we may quickly finish the willing population first and hopefully by that time vaccine hesitancy may be overcome.”

He further adds, “Even single dose is good enough to a large extent and hopefully we shall be able to jack up the vaccination by September 2021 to a great extent. I also experienced that in a city like Delhi, there is no shortage. In fact, many hospitals from Delhi did set up camps in other parts of the country. So there was a gross imbalance in supply and procurement of vaccines particularly during the months of May to June 2021. It also left Tier-III towns with no supply. To an extent the revised guidelines issued by the central government have come into effect and we should see supply reaching smaller towns through smaller hospitals soon.”

The Prime Minister recently launched a scheme to train 10,000 Covid warriors through 4-months training. AHPI is also working with member hospitals to train the workforce.

“Government may keep in mind the use of final year MBBS and Nursing Colleges students. We may allow MBBS graduates who have passed from foreign countries but have not qualified. Similarly, we can create covid care centres at each Gram Panchayat and hand over to the private players. Governments need to actively engage with the private sector to create synergy, which is lacking,” Dr Gyani concluded.

Accelerated Phase-3 Strategy of Covid-19 vaccination new guidelines were to come into play from June 21, 2021 under which state governments were to act as aggregators and ensure uniform supply to all private hospitals based on their capacity. However it took longer than expected.

Talking about the Covid-19 scenario, Dr. Mahesh Bhatt, Senior Surgeon and Public Health Consultant, Dehradun, “There are concerns that the third wave may impact children badly, though the data from first and second wave did not support it, even then we need to keep our healthcare systems ready for all kind of eventualities.”

According to Ahmedabad based Pharmaceutical Consultant Dr Sanjay Agrawal, “The government must create a mechanism which can audit public and private hospitals for delivery of essential services. The healthcare infrastructure needs to be augmented to tackle the third wave.”

“Blood stock also needs to be continually replenished by conducting regular blood donation drives. The blood, plasma and especially platelet requirements are bound to increase due to the rains and accompanying epidemics of malaria, dengue and leptospirosis among others,” says Dr Abhijeet Bopardikar, Joint Secretary, Federation of Bombay Blood Banks (FBBB).

“Among the most important measure apart from vaccination, rational use of masks, using sanitizers and maintaining physical distance is highly recommended,” according to an Independent Health Expert Anshu Yadav.

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