We finally have a Vaccine
So now what?
We can all breathe a sigh of relief after the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), the national drug regulatory authority, officially announced that the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) had agreed to accept the recommendations of its own Subject Expert Committee (SEC), and approved the the Covid-19 vaccine candidates of both Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech, but for restricted use right now.
So what can we expect will happen now!?
The Government of India will procure all vaccines
Serum Institute of India has come out with Covishield; the Indian rendition of AZD1222; the vaccine developed together by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and had already stocked up on 80 million doses. It is safe to assume that the rollout can begin sooner rather than later.
The other vaccine candidate to get approval and authorisation for emergency use only is, Covaxin, manufactured in Hyderabad by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), but this vaccine could take about a few days (or weeks) to be rolled out for use.
In both the United States and United Kingdom, the first vaccines were administered within two days of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines getting approval. In India as well; the process should be very fast. While nothing concrete has been announced, it should be safe to expected mass vaccination programmes will begin in about a week.
Who gets the vaccine first?
The government announced that first will be the 3 crore individuals at the forefront of India’s battle against Covid-19, including about 1 crore healthcare workers and 2 crore frontline workers. The Health Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan, announced on the second of January that they will get the vaccine for free. A third priority group of 27 crore citizens above 50, and even those below age 50, with associated comorbidities that require immediate vaccination.
So what about the rest of the people?
The government plans to finish off the first phase of vaccinations by August this year while the timeline for the remaining population is yet to be announced. Don’t worry, the rest of the population will not have to wait until the end of the first phase; there will be other groups will get vaccines after a few weeks or months.
The speed of the vaccination drive and the availability of the required doses are of paramount importance. The Serum Institute announced it has increased production. Also, there are other vaccines too apart from Covishield and Covaxin; and these will likely get approval for use in India in the near future. These include vaccine candidates from Pfizer, Moderna, and the Russian Sputnik-V, and Zydus-Cadila’s ZyCoV-D.
Preparations for rolling out the vaccine
Preparations have been ongoing for what will surely be India’s largest vaccination drive. Two rounds of mock drills having already been conducted in select states and Union territories.
About 96,000 vaccinators have been trained and over 75 lakh beneficiaries are already registered on Co-WIN, a platform which will provide information on vaccine stocks, their storage temperature, and individual beneficiaries of the shots, all in real time.
India’s cold chain storage infrastructure has also been upgraded to provide delivery to the farthest reaches of the country, along with other logistics which have already been arranged.
If I have recovered from Covid, will I also get vaccinated?
Yes. The government has indeed asked everyone to receive the full schedule of COVID vaccination, irrespective of whether or not they’ve been infected with the virus in the past. This will only serve better in developing a stronger immune system against the disease.
Who will be in the above 50 recipients?
The Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly electoral rolls will be used to identify the recipients aged 50 years or more.
The priority group of above 50 years is further split into those above who are 60 and those between 50 to 60 years of age for a roll out based on the situation of the pandemic and availability of the vaccine.
How many doses do we need before developing immunity?
As per the Health Ministry, two doses of vaccine, within 28 days, need to be given to a person to complete the full vaccination schedule. Protective levels of antibodies take around two weeks to develop after receiving the 2nd dose of the vaccine, the health ministry announced.
How to register for Covid-19 vaccination?
A digital platform called The COVID-19 Vaccine Intelligence Network (Co-WIN) will track all enlisted beneficiaries for vaccination and vaccines in real-time.
At the physical vaccination site, only those who are pre-registered will receive vaccination, and there will be no provision for registration on-the-spot.
The eligible beneficiaries will get information on their registered mobile numbers about the site where their vaccination will be done along with the scheduled time.
What documents that will be required for registration?
You can use any of the following: driving licence, PAN card, passport, MGNERGA job card, bank passbook, pension documents, voter ID, official IDs of MPs/ MLAs/ MLCs, government-issued service ID cards and health insurance smartcards issued by the Ministry of Labour.
Dr. Akshay Bhudhraja
Respiratory and Sleep medicine