The next steps in India’s mammoth vaccination drive


India undertook a massive vaccination campaign, so far giving 1.82 billion doses. The campaign focused on testing, tracking, treating, and vaccinating, as well as continued covid appropriate behaviour. Mint takes a look at how the policy evolved and what to expect next:

How has the drive shaped up?

India started one of the world’s largest covid-19 vaccination drives on 16 January 2021. The drive was implemented in phases, starting with the inoculation of healthcare workers and front-line workers. In the second phase, starting 1 March 2021, vaccination of the elderly population and those with co-morbidities was initiated. Finally, on 21 June, the government opened up the vaccination to all individuals above the age of 18 years. Recently, the government brought children in the age group of 12-14 years under the ambit of the programme. Overall, India has administered more than 1.82 billion does till date.

What’s the plan to widen the coverage?

The Centre has directed all the states and Union territories to strive for 100% vaccination for all the eligible age groups. States have been asked to particularly focus on those left out in the earlier phases and those who are yet to get the second dose. On Monday, Mint reported that 50-60 million people are yet to receive their second dose of Covishield. The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization has recommended reducing the time between two Covishield doses to 8-16 weeks from 12-16 weeks at present. This is expected to encourage more people to return for their second dose.

Photo: PTI

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Photo: PTI

How is vaccine wastage being prevented?

The Centre has allowed states and Union territories to exchange vaccine vials close to their expiry dates at private covid-19 vaccination centres with vials available with government vaccination centres that have a lot of time to go for expiry, to avoid wastage of vials. Government centres, which offer free shots, usually have a higher number of vaccine seekers.

How did vaccine diplomacy play out?

India has supplied vaccines made in India under the ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative. It has also offered its CoWIN platform as a digital global good to other countries. Vaccines have been supplied as grant-in-aid and commercial sales, as well as through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility. As on 14 February, India supplied 162.4 million doses of vaccines to 99 countries. India has approved three vaccines—Covishield, Covaxin, and Suptnik V—for adults and Corbevax for children in the age group of 12-14 years.

Will mixing of vaccines be allowed?

The government is evaluating the safety and efficacy of mixing of two vaccine doses. Some industry leaders have said ‘heterogenous immunization’ is safe and effective. The Christian Medical College Vellore is conducting a study to determine the safety and efficacy on mixing Covaxin and Covishield shots. However, some experts oppose the move and insist on long-term scientific evidence. One of the issues pointed out by the critics is that it will be difficult to fix the accountability of vaccine makers in case of adverse reaction.



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