Rajat Sharma

Covid vaccine rollout will augur a fresh beginning for all in India

akbAs the world ushered in the New Year, there was good news on Day One. Every Indian was waiting for this news for the last nine months. The subject expert committee of the Drugs Controller General of India on Friday recommended Emergency Use Authorisation(EUA) for the Oxford-Zeneca Covishield vaccine manufactured at Serum Institute of India, Pune. This is a conditional approval that entails that every recipient of the vaccine shall be given a factsheet about the vaccine prior to inoculation. The company has been asked to submit reports on adverse events every fortnight. Two full doses of Covishield will be given to every recipient within a gap of 4-6 weeks. The DCGI is going to give marketing approval within a day or two.
The first shot of Covishield vaccine will be given any time next week, and the first in line will be the health workers. Nearly 30 crore ‘priority population’ will get the vaccine by July this year. The first order for 10 crore doses will be funded through PM Cares Fund. This vaccine can be stored and transported at a temperature of two to eight degree Celsius, ideal for Indian climatic conditions. The vaccine has been offered to the government at Rs 225-250 each and it will be sold in chemist shops within a price range of Rs 500 to Rs 700.

Five basic parameters were kept in mind while giving approval to vaccines: efficacy, safety, affordability, availability and transportability. The Covishield vaccine was selected based on these five parameters. On efficacy, the Covishield vaccine reported 70 per cent success for the first dose and 95 per cent success for the second dose. All the trials carried out till now have reported minimal side effects, like mild fever and headache. The vaccine is comparatively cheaper compared to other candidates and its availability is good. Already 5 crore doses are ready to be transported. By July, 30 crore Indians will be vaccinated, as per plan.

The subject expert committee considered three candidates, Covishield from Oxford-AstraZeneca, Covaxin from Bharat Biotech and Pfizer. The applications of the remaining two candidates are still being evaluated. Bharat Biotech has offered Covaxin at Rs 350 to the government. For the next lot, the prices may vary.

For the vaccination drive, 1,000 vaccination booths will be set up in 48 government and 100+ private hospitals in Delhi alone. Covishield vaccine vials will arrive at Delhi airport by special cargo planes and will first be taken to the two main storage points set up at Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital and at Civil Lines. From there, the vaccine vials will be transported to 609 cold chain points in special refrigerated vans. From cold chain points, the vaccine vials will be distributed to vaccination booths set up across the capital. 51 lakh citizens will get the vaccine in Delhi in the first phase.

Each of the 11 districts in Delhi will have 55 to 60 cold chain points and 90 to 100 vaccination booths. Not more than 100 shots will be given at each booth. The priority recipients in Delhi will include three lakh healthcare workers, six lakh frontline workers, 42 lakh people aged above 50 years or below 50 with serious co-morbidities. Self-registration will start on CoWin App in a few days. SMS will be sent to recipients two days before vaccination. They will have to report at the vaccination booth at the appointment time.

For the nationwide vaccination drive, four regional Covid vaccine stores have been set up – Karnal (Haryana), Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. Nearly 96,000 vaccinators have been trained so far across India. The Centre has asked all the states to be ready with their lists of healthcare workers who will inoculated in the first phase.

In my show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Friday night, we showed reports from Bengaluru, Lucknow, Patna, Mumbai, Nagpur, Bhopal and other cities on preparations being made for the Covid vaccination drive. Here, I want to sound a note of caution. Vaccination alone will not kill the pandemic that is still raging across the globe. I spoke to several medical experts. They said, the pandemic is presently under control in India, vaccination may start by January 6, but it does not mean the deadly virus will vanish. The doctors told me that the Coronavirus is both deadly and tricky, it is mutating into several strains and can even dodge scientists. In a vast country like India, the vaccination will take a long time for completion, and till each of the 130-plus crore Indians are inoculated, there should be no scope for laxity. Wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and frequent washing of hands are a must.

In my show, we telecasted visuals of how thousands of devotees flocked to major temples and shrines across India on New Year’s Day to seek Almighty’s blessings, but with utter disregard to Covid protocol. There were also visuals of holiday crowds thronging the sea beaches of Goa, and other tourist places, singing and dancing in crowds, without wearing masks or maintaining distance. These could be reasons for worry. The virus is still there and it can strike anybody.

I agree it is difficult to argue on matters relating to religious faith, but even the Almighty would not like devotees to mingle in crowds, particularly when the pandemic is still there. If devotees risk their lives by joining crowds, even the Almighty cannot help. Listen to the advice of doctors and scientists. Stay away from crowds to keep yourself and your family members safe. Almighty will be happy to see all of you safe.

Think about the people in the USA, UK and Germany, where people defied Covid norms and came out in crowds. These countries are now facing a second, severe wave of pandemic. They had to remain indoors during Christmas and New Year Eve, away from the mirth and celebrations. Utmost caution is the need of the hour. Please exercise social restraint and patience. We are going to win the war, for sure.

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