The Covid-19 Vaccination Drive
With the government of India having announced the rollout of the much-awaited Covid-19 vaccination drive (first phase), state governments have started gearing up for implementation of the mega programme. The government of Nagaland too is all set to begin the inoculation on January 16 along with the rest of the country and had conducted dry run exercises on two occasions as part of the preparation for the exercise. It has been made clear that the vaccination will take place in a phased manner, with priority to healthcare workers in the first phase, which will be followed by frontline workers, and then people aged above 50 years and those below 50 years with comorbidities. It may take months together for the vaccines to reach the three priority groups and the wait could be much longer than expected for the general public considering the magnitude of the programme and size of population. Moreover, availability of doses could be a problem as only two vaccines – Covishield, developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and Covaxin developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech – have been approved by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for restricted emergency use in the country. But the development of the vaccine in record time and news of its subsequent rollout should come as a huge relief. This was possible because of the concerted efforts put in by the scientific community around the world, and now it’s the turn of the people to assist the vaccination drive by patiently waiting in queue for their turn to receive the vaccine. This is vital for seamless execution of the programme.
Meanwhile, the controversy around the approval of Covaxin for emergency use over non availability of its efficacy data needs to be cleared. Experts are divided on this with many expressing apprehension, stressing on the need to reveal the vaccine’s efficacy, while Bharat Biotech had claimed in a statement that its vaccine generated excellent safety data with long term persistence of immune responses to multiple viral proteins. But the debate will continue till the efficacy of the vaccine is established. So, it is important for the Hyderabad-based firm to make the efficacy data of its vaccine available to the public as soon as possible even as the Centre government prepares for this rollout. This will not only clear all doubts of the people, especially experts, but also bolster public trust. It is not easy to implement immunisation programmes in a big country like India and it is not possible for the government to achieve 100 per cent success for any immunisation exercise despite lots of efforts being put towards it, including planning, publicity, awareness programmes and easy access. This is why the government and the vaccine manufacturing company should work on winning the trust of the masses by clearing all doubts. If this is done, it won’t be difficult for India to implement Covid-19 vaccination as it has the infrastructure to smoothly carry out such an exercise, as done in the past. In fact, India is better equipped today in terms of health infrastructure than pre-pandemic.