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Opinion

India’s vaccines may start next week: officials

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With regulatory approvals granted to two coronavirus vaccines, the Center has started the procurement process, senior government officials said Monday, and the vaccination campaign could begin gradually by the end of next week.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the world’s largest inoculation campaign against coronavirus is scheduled to begin in the country, praising scientists and technicians for the “Made in India” vaccines.

The Comptroller General of Drugs of India (DCGI) announced on Sunday that it had approved both the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India by the Serum Institute of India (SII) and the candidate vaccine developed locally by Bharat Biotech International Limited. , Covaxin. Covaxin has been recommended for restricted use in “public interest emergency situation as an abundant precaution”, in clinical trial mode, to have more vaccination options. The director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Randeep Guleria, said that the Bharat Biotech vaccine has been approved only as a backup.

“Now that the approvals have been granted, the next step is to start the acquisition process. The Center is now studying the possibility of closing purchase agreements with interested companies. It is likely that between 50 and 60 million doses will be obtained in batches, considering that India is looking to vaccinate about 30 million people in the initial phase, ”said a government official aware of the developments on condition of anonymity.

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According to the official, the government is in talks with both companies whose vaccines have been approved. DCGI has accepted the recommendations made by a committee of subject matter experts from the Central Organization for the Control of Medicines Standards to grant a restricted emergency approval to the two vaccines.

“The paperwork tends to take some time, but arrangements are being made to sign the agreement as quickly as possible so that the vaccination campaign can start soon. The drills have already been conducted successfully across the country without major glitches. The digital platform, CoWIN, intended to be used for the delivery of vaccines is ready to go, since minor modifications that were necessary have already been made, ”added the official.

SII CEO Adar Poonawalla has said that his company offered a special price of Rs 200 in writing to the Indian government for the first 100 million doses. According to the official cited above, it is likely that the first lot will be taken from the SII at the price offered.

Addressing scientists at the National Metrology Conclave, Modi said: “The world’s largest Covid-19 vaccination program will start in India. For this reason, the country is proud of the contributions of its scientists and technicians ”. “Quality is as important as quantity, our standards must rise with our scale in our pursuit of Aatmanirbhar Bharat,” he said.

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According to a decision previously made by experts from the National Group of Experts on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19, the Center has decided to directly procure the vaccine supplies that it will distribute among the states according to their requirements.

Once the agreements with the companies are formally signed and the vaccine doses are obtained, the Center will deploy the supplies in 31 main centers that it has created in different regions of the country.

“From these 31 major centers, supplies will eventually move to 29,000 locally created vaccination points in different states from where state governments will collect the supplies to be delivered under the public vaccination initiative. These vaccination points can be increased even more if there is a need to add more according to the vaccine requirement, ”said another official, who asked not to be identified.

“Everything is in advanced stages of preparation and the immediate vaccination phase will begin with healthcare workers in the country, and the current supplies of the vaccine that are available in the country are sufficient to meet the country’s demand for Covid vaccines. -19. ”, Added the official.

According to government estimates, there are about 10 million health workers who are on the priority list to receive the vaccine immediately as part of the first phase of the vaccination exercise, followed by about 20 million front-line workers who participate. in managing the pandemic in the country.

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These two categories are on the immediate list as they are directly involved in managing the Covid-19 crisis. However, the campaign will start with health workers. More categories could be added depending on the availability of the vaccine. For now, the categories that have been broadly defined will have priority, ”said the official.

Helplines are being created at the national and state level to answer any questions related to the vaccine or the software in use. While the national 1075 helpline is being improved, states are also expanding their 104 helpline to address related inquiries.

States have already been training vaccine administrators and also preparing beneficiary details. So far some 150,000 vaccinators have been trained, covering more than 700 districts.

In total, the government has estimated that 300 million people are at high risk of developing serious diseases due to their profession, age and comorbidities, and will be given the vaccine in the early stages. The group includes healthcare workers, frontline workers, and populations at high risk of severe Covid-19.

Of the 300 million vulnerable population, approximately 10 million are health workers in both government and private settings (including integrated child development services workers), and around 20 million are frontline workers.

Health workers have been divided into nine subcategories. The first category is Frontline Health Workers and ICDS, such as Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA), Nurse Midwife Assistant, Multipurpose Health Worker, ASHA Facilitators, Anganwadi Worker (AWW), and AWW Sahayika.

The second category is nurses and supervisors that include nurse staff, public health nurse, health visitor, community health officer, child development project officer, chief physician and health officer, district women’s and children’s development officer and designated institutional officer.

Another category is that of medical officers consisting of allopathic physicians, Ayush physicians, dentists, including those in administrative positions, and paramedical personnel, including laboratory and operating room technicians, pharmacists, physiotherapist radiographers, nursing nurses, boys from room, etc.

Medical, dental, nursing, and paramedical students are also part of the health care staff that should be given priority, in addition to scientists and research staff, clerical and administrative staff, and support staff. , such as drivers, security workers, and sanitation workers.

Frontline workers include staff from state and central police departments, armed forces, domestic guards, prison staff, volunteers from disaster management and civil defense organizations, municipal workers, and revenue officials who are involved in containment and surveillance of Covid-19 and associated activities.

Approximately 270 million people are in the high-risk population group that includes 260 million people over 50 years of age and around 10 million people under 50 years of age with comorbidities such as chronic diabetes and hypertension, cancer, lung diseases, etc.

The age of a beneficiary for vaccination will be considered as January 1, 2021. Anyone born on or before January 1, 1971 will be included in this category, and the high-risk population group will be subcategorized into various age groups with Priority to people over 60 years old.

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