The much-awaited vaccine got approved on Sunday by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) namely - Covishield by Serum Institute of India and Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech. Both the manufacturers had submitted the data showing their vaccines were safe to use for emergency use.
The Bharat Biotech’s vaccine, called Covaxin, was granted a conditional nod despite a lack of a critical phase-three trial, raising concerns about its efficacy. Covaxin is being developed indigenously in collaboration with the government research body, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), as part of the government’s push for “atmanirbhar” or self-reliance.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be produced by its Indian partner, the Serum Institute of India (SII) – the world’s largest vaccine maker – under the name, Covishield. It says it is producing more than 50 million doses a month.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have been the COVID-19 vaccine trailblazers, becoming the first vaccine to receive WHO validation for emergency use, continues to be under review in India.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to social media to declare that the development made “every Indian proud that the two vaccines” are made in India.
“On 16th January, India takes a landmark step forward in fighting COVID-19. Starting that day, India’s nation-wide vaccination drive begins. Priority will be given to our brave doctors, healthcare workers, frontline workers including Safai Karamcharis,” PM Modi tweeted.
India has recorded the second-highest number of infections in the world, with more than 10.3 million confirmed cases to date. Nearly 150,000 people have died. Vaccinating the second most populous country, health experts say, will not be an easy task.
The Union health ministry already prepared a blueprint for coronavirus vaccination drive in the country. A dry run for COVID-19 vaccine rollout has already started across India.
Who Will Get The Vaccine?
The government has released an elaborate vaccine roll-out plan with the vaccination of 300 million of the most vulnerable people in the first phase running from January to August.
“Priority will be given to the healthcare workers and the frontline workers, estimated to be around 3 crore, followed by those above 50 years and the under-50 population groups with co-morbidities numbering around 27 crore,” the Centre said.
Depending on the disease epidemiology and vaccine availability, the remaining population will be vaccinated, later on, the ministry said earlier.
The health ministry on December 28 released the updated COVID-19 operational guidelines, a 148-page document detailing different aspects involved in vaccinating the population.
To test and prepare for the seamless delivery and administration of the vaccine, the government first conducted a two-day dry run in four states on December 28 and 29. On January 2, another exercise was conducted at select hospitals across state capitals and major cities across the country.
How Will The Vaccine Get Distributed?
The government guidelines say India’s successful conduct of the election process will be utilized as a layout to run the vaccination drive. used as a template to run the vaccination drive. The 2019 general elections saw 900 million voters across the country casting their ballot in seven phases over six weeks.
Similar to voting centres, district administrations will identify vaccination session sites to accumulate those eligible for vaccination. Every session site will be overseen by a five-member group of vaccination officers to verify identity, regulate vaccines, and monitor the vaccinated.
Instructions recommend that each session will immunize 100 individuals daily, expanding the number to 200 if adequate vaccines and logistics are available. The number of such vaccination sites to be set up has been left to the district administrations who will depend on their area’s electoral roll. India has more than 700 districts.
Since both the vaccines require two full doses managed around four to six weeks apart, the vaccination sessions will have to be set up twice.
PM Modi was briefed about the preparedness status of the Centre in close collaboration with the state and UT governments for the roll-out of the vaccine. He was also advised about the Co-WIN Vaccine Delivery Management System, which will be mandatory for the Centre use and the people to register and track the target groups.