At a Mint panel discussion, the AIIMS director said the vaccination programme is a huge challenge but the govt has preparing for it since the past few months
Guleria is confident health spending will figure in a huge way in Budget 2021
New Delhi: India’s Covid-19 vaccination programme will done at the government's expense, said Dr. Randeep Guleria, director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on Monday. He was speaking at the Mint Budget 2021 LIVE panel on "How do we fund and distribute the Covid-19 vaccine?".
The AIIMS director who is also on the Central government panel looking after Covid-19 control efforts, said that it's (covid-19 vaccination) a huge task that the government has undertaken. “It's going to be done at the government's expense and they are already prepared for it," he said.
Guleria also indicated that vaccine rollout will only be done after the government is assured about the safety and efficacy of vaccine candidates for Covid-19. “We have had a lot of data in and regulators are not going to allow any vaccine to come into the market unless we know that it's efficacious. Safety is paramount. So, the data has to be looked at for all the vaccines, whether it be from coming from outside or ones that are undergoing phase three trials in India," said Guleria adding that unless the data is robust enough to show that the vaccines are safe, he doesn’t think they will get rolled out or be given regulatory approvals.
The AIIMS director also said that it is very important for citizens in the country to understand and have faith that vaccines are going to be safe, they will be efficacious, and only then, would they be rolled out as far as the vaccine program is concerned.
He also highlighted that preparations are in the progress regarding cold chains and storage of the vaccines. He said that the cold chains and storage sites have to be in place, training the vaccinators, getting the sites ready, and also the ancillary stuff that is required like syringes, needles, swabs, and then working on a strategy of looking at the biomedical waste that has to be taken care of.
“There will be two doses of the vaccine so this whole exercise has to be repeated again in a sort of seamless manner. It's a huge challenge, but there is a lot of work that has been going on for the last few months in preparing the list of individuals who need to be vaccinated, getting the cold chain ready, ordering the needed equipment for storage and working on how to transport the vaccine across the country, using various vehicles so that it can be done in a, in a seamless manner," said Guleria.
Talking about the budget and financing of the vaccines, Guleria said that with Covid-19 pandemic, health sector has actually come to the centrestage. “For the coming year, health will be a priority for the government. I'm sure it will really figure in a big way as far as the budget is concerned, when we're looking at health, we need to look at the health infrastructure, what Covid has taught us in terms of preventive health in terms of looking at promoting health, and how we can really build a resilient India, so that it's healthy for the future," said Guleria.
“And I think that is the message that the pandemic has taught us, and we need to really work on that. We've been able to do a lot during the pandemic in terms of improving the health infrastructure, but there's still a lot that needs to be done," he said.
India has been exploring various vaccine candidates for Covid-19. Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) is in the process to manufacture Covishield, which is developed by Oxford University and pharma giant AstraZeneca and is undergoing clinical trials. Also, Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical company Dr Reddy’s Laboratories has partnered with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) for conducting clinical trials of the Sputnik V vaccine and its distribution in India.
Further, another coronavirus vaccine—Covaxin-- is being developed by Bharat Biotech in association with the country’s apex biomedical research body Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Gujarat-based pharma giant Zydus Cadila Ltd is also developing another indigenous vaccine, which is in the second phase of the clinical trials. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been saying that the government will ensure that the Covid-19 vaccine, whenever available, reaches each and every Indian as soon as possible. Recently also he indicated that the vaccine will be available in few weeks.