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An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. (AFP)
An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. (AFP)

Covid-19 vaccines to be available soon, how will India reach the last person?

  • With the latest positive news from vaccine trials, the light at the end of this long, dark tunnel is growing brighter, the WHO chief said. There is now real hope that vaccines – in combination with other tried and tested public health measures – will help to end the pandemic.

NEW DELHI : Officially affirming that no vaccines in history have been developed as rapidly as covid-19 vaccine, there is now a real risk that the poorest and most vulnerable will be trampled in the stampede for vaccines, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO on Monday said that the scientific community has set a new standard for vaccine development, now the international community must set a new standard for access. The urgency with which vaccines have been developed must be matched by the same urgency to distribute them fairly, he said adding every government rightly wants to do everything it can to protect its people.

With the latest positive news from vaccine trials, the light at the end of this long, dark tunnel is growing brighter, the WHO chief said. There is now real hope that vaccines – in combination with other tried and tested public health measures – will help to end the pandemic. The significance of this scientific achievement cannot be overstated, Tedros said.

The WHO said that $4.3 billion is needed immediately to support the mass procurement and delivery of vaccines, tests and treatments. A further $23.8 billion will be needed next year.

In India also a few vaccine candidates are under different phases of clinical trials. Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) is in a process to manufacture Covishield which is being developed by Oxford University and pharma giant AstraZeneca which is undergoing phase 3stage of the clinical trials.

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, 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.

The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for covid-19 (NEGVAC) in consultation with state governments and all relevant stakeholders has prepared and presented a detailed blueprint of vaccine storage, distribution, and administration, officials in the Union health ministry said.

The expert group in consultation with the states is also working actively on vaccine prioritization and its distribution. 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.

The government has already said that database of healthcare and frontline workers, augmentation of cold chains and procurement of syringes, needles, etc. are in advanced stages of preparation for administering covid-19 vaccine at the first available opportunity. Amidst plans of covid-19 vaccination drive to be undertaken early next year, the central government has also asked states to form committees for streamlining the process and increase acceptance of the vaccine among communities. Vaccine experts have said that for making vaccine available to each and every person, the government will have to adopt unique strategies.

“For universal coverage of vaccine, the government should allow the sale of available vaccines in the private market by capping the prices. In parallel, the government can start the exercise to prioritise and administer vaccines free of cost to those who need it but cannot afford it," said Naveen Thacker, Executive director of international Pediatric Association and former civil society organization (CSO) representative to Gavi board.

“This will serve twin purpose. One people will have option to take the vaccine and two it will prevent the financial burden on the government. Also, it will ease the burden on the government health system. Off course Govt needs to issue and ensure guidelines are followed," Thacker said.

As far as the safety of vaccine is concerned, scientist have been calling in for more transparency in terms of adverse reactions to covid-19 vaccines. “We should remember that volunteers participating in vaccine trials in various countries are putting their own health at risk. They and their families too need to know global volunteers’ experience. The vaccine manufacturers need to step-up their communications activities to maintain vaccine confidence," said Lalit Kant, a scientist and former head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

"Pandemics are exceptional situations, and require exceptional need for transparency. Vaccine manufacturers have to strike a balance between confidentiality and transparency in the interest of humanity and their own vaccines’ acceptance," he added.

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