Sleeves up! Coronavirus vaccination drive could begin on January 13
The first dose of the coronavirus vaccine in India will most likely be administered on January 13, a statement from a top official of the Union Health Ministry indicated on Tuesday. India will begin the drive with Covishield, which has been developed by the University of Oxford and is being produced locally by the Serum Institute of India. Here are more details.
India has given approval to two vaccines, including indigeneous one
On Sunday, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) Dr. VG Somani granted the emergency use authorization to Covishield and COVAXIN, which is developed by Bharat Biotech. The DCGI's nod was based on the recommendations of an expert committee. To note, US-based Pfizer, which developed the vaccine with BioNTech, also sought a similar approval but hasn't been granted the same yet.
Ready to introduce the vaccine: Health Secretary
Addressing the press today, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the Union Health Ministry is ready to introduce the vaccine within ten days of the emergency approval based on the dry run, hinting that the first dose will be administered on the aforementioned date. On Saturday, a dry run was conducted at 259 sites of 116 districts to understand challenges before the actual exercise.
Healthcare workers will be prioritized for the doses
Leading India's priority list for the vaccine are healthcare workers, followed by frontline corona warriors, and people aged above 50. In the first phase, the government plans to inoculate 30 crore people. Recently, Dr. VK Paul from the NITI Aayog said India has the infrastructure to inoculate one crore healthcare workers. Vaccinating them is easier as they are already in healthcare facilities, he explained.
An election-like process could be followed to inoculate citizens
Dr. Paul also revealed that India could deploy an election-like mechanism to target a larger population. "When we go to the field for the 26 crore people above the 50-year age group, that is the time when this idea of the election program-aligned, booth-based approach will be taken," he said. He underlined the government is looking to conclude the exercise at the earliest.
By March, even private hospitals will get doses of Covishield
On a related note, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla disclosed that doses of Covishield should be made available to private hospitals, organizations, and individuals by as early as March. The cost of one jab will not be more than Rs. 1,000, he had told, while adding that a gap of at least two months between both doses is advised for enhanced efficacy.
Meanwhile, SII and Bharat Biotech released a joint statement
Poonawalla and Bharat Biotech MD Krishna Ella released a joint statement today, to send a message that they understand the severity of the situation. "We are fully aware of the importance of vaccines for people and countries alike. We hereby communicate our joint pledge to provide global access for our COVID-19 vaccines," the statement read. The companies assured to prioritize needy populations.