Rajat Sharma

India will begin a historic Covid vaccine rollout

On Tuesday, Microsoft founder and philanthropist billionaire Bill Gates praised India’s leadership in Covid vaccination drive. He tweeted: “It’s great to see India’s leadership in scientific innovation and vaccine manufacturing capability as the world works to end the COVID-19 pandemic”. Gates marked his tweet to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office.

AKB4 The Centre has announced an all-India Covid vaccine rollout from next week which will begin simultaneously across the country with a goal to inoculate at least three crore people in the first phase. The Health Secretary has said, the Centre has already uploaded vaccination data relating to three crore recipients on Co-WIN, the IT platform that will be used for the rollout.

Four primary vaccine depots in Karnal (Haryana), Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai will receive the vaccine doses from manufacturers by air and these will be transported in refrigerated vans to 37 state vaccine stores. The vaccines will then be passed down the distribution chain to district vaccination stores, and from there, they will be transported to primary health centres and sub-centres, which will act as actual vaccination sites. These sites also include public, private hospitals and clinics where the vaccine shots will be given. The entire process will involve over 29,000 cold chain points and will be closely monitored on real time basis through Co-WIN. India will extend the Co-WIN application to other countries.

The Health Secretary said that the bulk data base of healthcare and frontline workers have already been uploaded on Co-WIN and there was no need for these recipients to register themselves for vaccination. However, priority groups will have to register as that set of data would require editing, he added.

On Tuesday, Microsoft founder and philanthropist billionaire Bill Gates praised India’s leadership in Covid vaccination drive. He tweeted: “It’s great to see India’s leadership in scientific innovation and vaccine manufacturing capability as the world works to end the COVID-19 pandemic”. Gates marked his tweet to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also tweeted to say “India continues to take decisive action and demonstrate its resolve to end COVID-19 pandemic.”

In spite of all these, there are still naysayers in India who are raising questions about the two vaccines that have been approved. They are spreading rumours to create fear in the minds of the public.

In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Tuesday night, we showed visuals of how thousands of people in Los Angeles city are spending whole night waiting inside their cars for Covid testing. The United States reported 1,96,000 fresh Covid cases on Monday and there is widespread panic among people.

Helicopters are hovering over Los Angeles to keep a watch on people waiting in cars. The world famous Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, home to several big baseball tournaments, was packed both inside and outside with people waiting in cars. During the first nine months of pandemic, there were four lakh Covid cases in Los Angeles, but from December 1 till now, there had been eight lakh Covid cases in Los Angeles county alone.

The death toll this week touched one thousand, even as one in every five residents are being tested positive. The positivity rate has reached 20 per cent, and on Monday alone, 77 Covid patients died. This, despite the fact that in the USA till now, 50 lakh people have been given Pfizer vaccine doses. Unless the entire population is not vaccinated, there are chances of the pandemic spreading, with mutant strains already creating havoc.

Let me cite one example of negligence. An employee at San Jose Medical Center in North California died of Covid, but by that time, the virus had spread to dozens of others. The officials were puzzled how the virus spread despite practice of protocols and precautions.

It transpired that one of the employees was wearing an inflatable costume during Christmas celebrations and had rejoined duty without proper sanitization. The San Jose Medical Center issued a statement saying that the negligence on part of a single employee caused the virus to spread to 44 others, and till now, one employee has died. The employee had come to the medical center for a few hours to wish Happy Christmas to his colleagues, but while doing this, he spread the virus.

We in India should learn lessons from such incidents in the US, considered one of the world’s most advanced economies, leading in the field of research and medicines. Even the UK is far ahead in the field of medical research, but it is now facing havoc from the spread of new strain of Coronavirus.

The number of fresh Covid cases in UK touched 58,684 on Tuesday. The pandemic is spreading fast, and cities like London, Bristol, Birmingham, Southampton, Salisbury, Oxford, Cardiff and Plymouth present a ghostly look. The streets are empty and almost all the shops have downed their shutters due to the lockdown. There are long queues of people waiting to get their jabs for Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines.

A British newspaper reported that until and unless nearly 70 per cent of the population is administered vaccines, the lockdown in UK may have to continue till March. All schools, colleges and universities have been closed down till mid-February. The new strain of virus is spreading at a frightening pace.

Along with England, Scotland, France and Germany have also imposed lockdown to arrest the spread of the virus. The British PM Boris Johnson on Tuesday spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and expressed his inability to attend the January 26 Republic Day parade in New Delhi as chief guest.

The new Covid strain is already creating havoc in China. Schools and colleges have been closed down in Shenyang in northeast China, where the pandemic has spread. People have been asked to remain indoors, tourists have been asked to avoid visiting the capital Beijing.

Long queues of people are waiting for Covid testing outside medical centres in Shenyang, and the city has been barricaded with barbed wire to prevent people from fleeing. Only those who have negative Covid certificates are being allowed to go out. In another city of China, Dalian, buildings have been sealed and people have been asked to remain indoors.

I have shown visuals from Los Angeles, UK and China in order to caution people in India. They must not become complacent despite the present declining trend in Covid cases across the country. On Tuesday, India became the world’s third country to record more than 1.5 lakh Covid-related deaths, though there is presently a lower trend in fatalities and fresh cases.

The pandemic is presently under control in India, and in the last 24 hours, only 16,375 fresh cases were reported. There were only three fatalities in a big cosmopolitan city like Mumbai, the lowest since April. We managed to bring the pandemic under control due to coordination between the government, health workers and dedication of our doctors.

The danger is not yet over. So far, 58 cases of the fresh UK strain have been reported in India, though many passengers have vanished after returning the from the UK and Europe. The new UK strain spreads rapidly within seconds, while the original Covid virus took up to 30 minutes to spread. I would appeal to all passengers who have returned from UK to come forward and report for tests, for their own benefit and in the interest of their friends and relatives.

As far as the controversy that was sought to be created over the two Covid vaccines is concerned, it should be put to rest now that both the companies have issued a joint statement saying “the more important task in front of us is saving the lives and livelihoods of populations in India and the world”.

You would be glad to know that at this point of time, nine Covid vaccines are being manufactured in India alone. It will be a matter of pride for all Indians when half the world’s population will be getting vaccine shots with the mark “MADE IN INDIA”.

This is a great achievement for Indian pharmaceutical industry, and yet there are people who are using the vaccine issue to take potshots at Narendra Modi. They are still questioning the efficacy and quality of our indigenous Covid vaccine. They are creating fear in the minds of people, which is not fair. They are doing injustice to our own country, our doctors and our researchers.

As India celebrates Lohri on January 13 and Makar Sankranti on January 14, with the start of Uttarayana, India will witness a historic nationwide vaccination drive aimed at saving the lives of crores of Indians. Till the time each and every Indian gets both the doses of Covid vaccine, the danger will not be over.

For acquiring herd immunity, we need to inoculate at least 60 crores Indians, and to achieve that, we will require 120 crore doses. Till now, we have manufactured over 5 crore doses of Covishield and two crore doses of Covaxin. To inoculate 60 crore Indians, we may require a minimum of 18 months. Till then, strict Covid protocol and social distancing precaution is a must.

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