India has launched the third phase of its coronavirus vaccination drive with everyone above the age of 45 now eligible for the jab. More than 8.3 crore (83 million) doses have been given so far.
The world’s biggest inoculation drive aims to cover 250 million people by July, but according to the experts, pace needs to pick up further to meet the target. Amid a sharp uptick in Covid-19 cases, the third phase is launched as a progressive move.
Covid cases in India had dropped sharply by the time it began vaccinating people in the starting of this year. It was adding under 15,000 infections daily. But cases began to spike again in March, largely driven by poor test-and-trace and lax safety protocols.
On Monday, the country reported more than 1 lakh new cases – the sharpest spike, even more than the first wave last year. The cases in Maharashtra state have been breaking it’s own records everyday.
India is the third-highest number of Covid-19 infections in the world after the United States. Since this global pandemic began, India has confirmed more than 11.7 million cases and over 160,000 deaths.
India launched its vaccination drive on 16 January, but it was greatly limited to healthcare workers and frontline staff. The first Indian to receive the vaccine was a sanitation worker.
From 1 March, the eligibility criteria was expanded to include people over 60 and those who are between 45 and 59 but have other illnesses.
The country’s drugs regulator has given the green light to two vaccines – one developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University (Covishield) and one by Indian firm Bharat Biotech (Covaxin). Several others candidates are at different stages of trials. However, both Covaxin and Covishield have been developed in a similar manner. The only difference between the two is that while Covishield has passed through complete 3 stages of testing, Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech is still in the last scale of study. Both of these are homegrown, traditional vaccines developed using mechanisms that have been depended on for long. Therefore, they may be termed relatively safer than other modern vaccines and have less risk of side-effects.
More than 65 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered so far. On Thursday, the government said it administered more than two million doses in the past 24 hours.
Approximately, 56 million people have received one dose, and over nine million people have been fully vaccinated after receiving two doses. India has been running one of the world’s largest immunisation programmes that vaccinates tens of millions, including newborns and pregnant women, against various diseases.
The uptake of vaccines has been slow because of vaccine scepticism as well as a lack of awareness among the poor or in rural areas.
Online registration could be an impediment for those who don’t own phones or use the internet.
Most of the poor and underprivileged generation have little information on how to register themselves and access the vaccine free of cost.
Radha Khan, an independent consultant working in the field of gender, governance and social inclusion expressed her view, saying “There’s very little public health communication for the poor and the working class regarding the vaccines.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who’s 70 years old, got his vaccine shot on 1 March. He was administered a jab of the indigenously developed Covaxin. He urged people to take the vaccine when their turn came after he received it.
The government aims to use up to 500 million doses to cover 250 million “priority people” by the end of July.
But nevertheless, there are numerous amount of scepticism and confusions in regard of the vaccines and it’s effectiveness.
Few important questions rather doubts stated by various individuals regarding the vaccine are mentioned below:-
People tend to compare the Indian vaccines with the ones introduced in other countries like Pfizer and hence question it’s effectiveness.
As the vaccine has been introduced in a short span of time, they are confused about it’s safety and side effects. Most, one of the biggest question where people are getting stuck is that whether to choose Covaxin or Covishield?
Whether the vaccine is necessary to take for a COVID recovered person, whether it will be a booster shot for the Indian economy and notably will the vaccine bring about actual changes and put an end to this deadly pandemic? These are few of the concerns by the people.
PLAN OF ACTION
Coronavirus vaccinations will be done throughout the month till 30 April, including on gazetted holidays, at all public and private Covid inoculation centres, the Union Health Ministry stated. The Centre has written to all States and Union Territories and asked them to make necessary.
Arrangements to provide COVID vaccination in these covid vaccination centres on all days of the month including gazetted holidays during April 2021, the ministry said.
“This step has been taken after detailed deliberations with the States/UTs on 31st March, 2021 to optimally utilize all COVID Vaccination Centres across the public and private sectors to ensure rapid increase in the pace and coverage of COVID vaccination. This decision is in line with the graded and pro active approach employed by the Government of India along with the States/UTs for COVID-19 vaccination,” it said.
Harsh Vardhan said the finance minister has allocated Rs 35,000 crore for vaccination in the budget with an assurance that it could be increased if required.
He said two vaccines – Serum Institute’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin – have been approved for emergency use authorisation, while work is in progress on seven more vaccines against Covid-19.
“Besides these, work is in progress on seven vaccines. Of the seven, three vaccines are in phase 3 clinical trial stage. Two vaccines are in phase 1 and 2 clinical trial stages and the remaining two are in advanced pre-clinical stage,” the health minister said.
He added that India has received requests for vaccines from 22 countries. These countries include Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brazil, Egypt, Kuwait, Maldives, Mauritius, Morocco, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepali, Nicaragua, Oman, Saudi Arabia Seychelles, South Africa and the UAE. There is also request from the Pacific Island countries, Vardhan said.
Vaccines have already been given to 15 countries through grant assistance and contracted doses.
Harsh Vardhan said 56 lakh doses have been sent through grants and five lakh doses through contract.
REGISTRATION PROCESS FOR VACCINATION
The simplified one-page certificate of comorbidity has to be signed by any registered medical practitioner. The certificate can either be uploaded on Co WIN 2.0 by the beneficiary while self-registering or a hard copy can be carried by the beneficiary to the COVID Vaccination Centres (CVC).
In advance self-registration, beneficiaries need to download the CO-Win 2.0 portal and through other IT applications such as Aarogya Setu etc. This will show the government and private hospitals serving as COVID vaccination centres with the date and time of the available schedules. The beneficiary would be able to choose the CVC of his/her choice and book an appointment for vaccination.The facility of on-site registration is not available in Delhi for now.
While concluding, ahead of the Phase 3 vaccination, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan held a meeting with states to review their preparations. The Centre conveyed to the states that there is no shortage of Covid-19 vaccines in the countries and that it will continually replenish” states’ vaccine supplies.
The Centre has also asked states and UTs to minimise their vaccine wastage to below 1% against the current national vaccine wastage figure of 6 per cent. The Centre has also asked states to identify low vaccine coverage pockets, especially in districts that have seen a recent surge in Covid-19 cases.