Vaccine against covid-19 -India first!


A medic administers the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to a frontline worker, after the virtual launch of the vaccination drive by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at Government Girls School, Wazirabad village, in Gurugram on Saturday. (ANI Photo)

The Narendra Modi government launches the world’s biggest vaccination program. Amid rumors about the efficacy of vaccine and concerns about its price, doctors try to convince 1.3 billion people to take the jab 

Our Bureau 
New Delhi 

They are calling it the world’s biggest vaccination operation against Covid-19. The challenge is huge. The logistics involved are massive. India seems to rising for the challenge, though there are some degree of doubts about the vaccines. 

On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched one of the world’s biggest coronavirus vaccine programs. The vaccination program aimed at inoculating 3 crore (30 million) health and other frontline workers first, will use shots manufactured in India – one developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, the other by Bharat Biotech with the country’s top clinical research body.

Health workers, people over 50 and those deemed at high-risk are prioritized to receive one of the two approved vaccines. On day one around 300,000 people received the first of two doses.

Frontline workers waiting for their turn for the first dose of Covishield vaccine during the vaccination drive at Era’s Lucknow Medical College and Hospital, in Lucknow on Friday. (ANI Photo)

Authorities say they are drawing on their experience with elections and child immunization programmes for polio and tuberculosis in rolling out the vaccine.

It is India’s moment of pride. At least, the government is projecting the program like that. The Indian vaccine will work as ‘sanjeevani’ in the fight against COVID-19, said Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan. The Minister joined the doctors and potential vaccine beneficiaries at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, to witness the launch of the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination, where a sanitation worker becomes the first person to receive the vaccine. Addressing the media, he said that misinformation is being spread about the vaccines and urged the media to help in dispelling the rumors.

“I am very happy and satisfied today. We have been fighting against COVID-19 under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership for the last one year. With help of doctors and scientists, we have an Indian vaccine now, this vaccine will work as a ‘sanjeevani’ in the fight against COVID-19, which has entered the final stage,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said.

Health workers watch prime minister Narendra Modi virtual launch covid-19 vaccine drive, in Kolkata on Saturday. (ANI Photo)

He later held up a dose of COVAXIN developed by Bharat Biotech to the media.

Meanwhile, Chief Ministers of several states attended the launch of the vaccination drive at government hospitals in their respective states.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy attended the launch of the COVID-19 vaccination programme at Government General Hospital, Vijayawada, while Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan attended the inaugural event at Gandhi Hospital in Bhopal.

In New Delhi, AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Singh Guleria and NITI Aayog member VK Paul on Saturday were administered the COVID-19 vaccine shot at AIIMS. Manish Kumar, a sanitation worker was the first person to receive the COVID-19 vaccine jab at AIIMS. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan was also present there on the occasion.

In the run up to the vaccination program, there have been many rumors and some degree of skepticism too. But Dr Nandini Duggal, Head of Microbiology at Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, said vaccines are always made with a lot of effort and Indian COVID-19 vaccines have been made after plenty of study and research.

Dispelling the misinformation surrounding the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine, Dr Duggal told ANI, “There are certain tolerable reactions (cough and little pain) that people are bound to face. And they are well informed in advance.” Speaking about her experience of getting vaccinated, she said, “I felt no pain. It is unlike any other vaccine. For half an hour I was kept under observation. It took barely 10 minutes. First, the verification was done. Then all other procedures were explained to us.”

Talking about his experience after getting vaccinated, Nitin Choudhary, Assistant Professor (Department of Anesthesia) at Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Medical Sciences, said, “Once you come here, they briefly tell you about the vaccination process. Thereafter, they give your consent to tell you what little you might face after the vaccines. Then the vaccine is administered.”

After taking COVID-19 vaccine at AIIMS Delhi on Saturday NITI Aayog member VK Paul said that the country has demonstrated that it can be ‘atmanirbhar’ in protecting its people by making vaccines in a short span. “Today we have demonstrated that we can be ‘atmanirbhar’ in protecting people of India, in a frontline technology like creating vaccines over a short period of time. We have two made in India vaccines licensed today, both are great vaccines,” said Dr VK Paul. He also urged people to embrace vaccination, adding that the clinical trials of vaccines in other countries is still going on.

“Phase 3 trial still going on. Phase 3 trial of even Pfizer, Moderna is still going on but look at the data, benefits are overwhelming compared to risk. The world has decided to move forward, take benefit and ensure what’s needed in this stage,” he said.

He further said that safety is proven without doubt on thousands of individuals and that one should respect the scientific processes that unfolded in extremely different, difficult and unusual circumstances.

“Today two great vaccines are available. Whatever vaccine you’re allotted, please take it,” he added.

Urging the people to have faith in India’s researchers, scientists, regulatory authorities, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Director Dr Randeep Singh Guleria on Saturday reassured the nation that Bharat Biotech’s COVAXIN vaccine is safe.

“I want to reassure everyone that the vaccine (COVAXIN) is safe. It is efficacious. We have to vaccinate a huge number of people prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection and therefore we can’t start being very choosy. We must have confidence in our researchers, scientists, and regulatory authorities,” he said while answering a question regarding the efficiency of Bharat Biotech’s vaccine. Dr Guleria along with NITI Aayog member VK Paul were administered the COVID-19 vaccine shot at AIIMS Delhi on the inaugural day of the nationwide roll-out of vaccination on Saturday.

Talking about the experience, he said, “I am humbled to get vaccinated in the first slot and feel so proud. I hope more and more people come forward when it comes to getting vaccinated so that we can reduce mortality and prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection.”

Health workers gesture during the launch of covid-19 vaccine drive, at G B Pant Hospital in New Delhi on Saturday. (ANI Photo)

Even as top doctors and scientists try to convince people about the efficacy of vaccines, there are some concerns about the pricing. 

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking free vaccine delivery to the poor population of the state. Punjab will kickstart the process of vaccination of 1.74 lakh health workers with 40,000 to be covered every day over the next five days in the first phase. The Chief Minister, while acknowledging the receipt of 2,04,500 doses of Covishield vaccine, thanked the PM Modi for making the vaccine available on priority to the Health Care Workers (HCWs) of the State and Central Government in Punjab.

At the same time, he earnestly requested him to consider providing free vaccine to the poor population with a view to lessen the disease burden and also ensuring a check on the further spread of transmission thereby allowing more economic activity.

Referring to reports citing some central government sources that apart from the HCWs and Front-Line Workers (FLWs), the remaining population may not be provided free vaccine, Captain Amarinder pointed out in his letter that “the people of the State have gone through a very difficult time due to Covid-19 wherein economic activities have nosedived and the economy has still not recovered from this shock.”

“It would be difficult for the poorer sections of society to pay for the vaccination,” he said.

“All steps are in place to ensure vaccination of HCWs on priority, with FLWs to follow in the next phase. The State has adequate capacity for storing as well as transportation of the vaccine,” he wrote.

He further added that a sufficient number of vaccination sites have been identified and all logistics tied up. An adequate number of vaccinators have been identified, and trained and sufficient number of teams have been mobilized and trained to manage the vaccination sessions.

Pointing out that “the COVID-19 pandemic has been an unparalleled disaster in living memory, and heavy expenditure had to be incurred in our coronavirus response,” the Chief Minister further wrote that his government had already requested the Centre that the accumulated balances with the state in the State Disaster Relief Fund may be permitted to be used as necessary for COVID-19 response. “The MHA may kindly approve this to allow pending payments to be cleared,” he urged the PM.

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