- India launched immunisation drive against coronavirus on January 16
- Till Tuesday, India inoculated 2.24 lakh people in the country
- Government's target for the first day of vaccinatination was 3 lakh people
New Delhi: January 16 in India will always be remembered by the country as it is that day when the country launched the biggest immunisation programme against coronavirus, a virus that infected more than 94 million people globally, of which, 10,558,710 are in India. In the two-days’ time of the vaccination programme, India has immunised around 2.24 lakh people in the country, which according to the government is the highest any country has achieved in this much time around the world. Over 17,000 people were vaccinated across 553 sites in six states on Day 2 of India’s coronavirus vaccination drive, whereas, on Saturday (Day 1) 1.91 lakh were vaccinated at 3,006 sites across India after Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the nationwide drive, said the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
As India moves ahead with its immunisation programme, NDTV speaks with Professor Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government & and Co-Chairperson for COVID-19 Development & Research Task Force to know more about the COVID-19 immunisation drive, its targets and learnings from the first and second day of the drive.
Highlighting the concerns from day 1 of the vaccination drive in India and why the country was not able to achieve the 100 per cent of what was targeted by the government, Professor Raghavan said,
We must keep in mind the extraordinary diversity of our country; this is a large country and there are many kinds of situations that the vaccination sites in our country have to deal with. And at the other end, we have to see people who have been allotted time and location are present irrespective of their duties. Keeping all these things in mind, achieving 64 per cent of the target, I think, is extraordinary and we will keep on progressing and the coverage will be very good.
Explaining about the system of the vaccination drive and what happens if people doesn’t turn up on the day they have been allotted for the vaccination, Professor Raghavan said,
It is simple and part of the CoWIN app, if people, by any chance are unable to come for their vaccination, they will have to go back to the app and tell that they couldn’t come for their vaccination, then they will get another slot. And these are the things that will happen as we go along, we will have to see people’s convince, their availability and time.
The government has said that all major states in India will vaccinate any four days for a week and smaller states and Union Territories like Goa will vaccinate for only two days. Uttar Pradesh is an exception and will also vaccinate for only two days a week. Talking about on what basis have the government come to this decision, Professor Raghavan said,
This will keep on changing as the vaccination programme progresses in India. There are very close interactions everyday with the Union Health Ministry and the Health Ministry of different states. For now, this has been arrived at because it is feasible and will take place in a correct manner, as we move ahead, this will change.
About the distribution of vaccines and where does India now stand, Professor Vijay Raghavan said that distribution has multiple layers to it. He added,
It starts right from the factory, then is distributed to a larger and smaller warehouse, then states and districts before it finally reaches the vaccine supply chain. This whole distribution process has been tested several times in the last few weeks as a part of dry-runs, so I don’t think distribution will be a critical issue in the coming months. There will always be a situation where demand in some places will be high as compared to the supply, but then there is are feedback mechanism in place to make sure that no vial goes waste in the whole process.
Speaking about adverse events falling immunisation, was India in the range of acceptability of the events reported on day 1 and 2 of the drive, Professor Vijay Raghavan added,
There are two broad categories in which we can put the adverse events in – one is those which are matter of concerns and others is something serious, which remains for a longer duration. The latter category of adverse events after immunisation, which potentially needs to be looked at deeply in India, for now, is very very low. And it is too early to comment on the numbers but most of the numbers we saw in India, fell in the category of events not of significant concerns.
Professor Vijay Raghavan also said that people should not be worried about the vaccination and should get their jab when asked. He added,
We need to understand that there are three components that affect this virus – one is what we do – the people or society by wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and washing hands, this can stop the virus enormously. The second is what the virus does – it changes regularly and it can become worse or better, so scientists need to watch out for that and prevent the virus from increasing. The third component is are the tools which affect the virus in extreme ways like vaccines. So, the faster and widely we use this tool, the virus’s opportunity to change become less and less. So, when one is asked to go for their vaccination, one should go for it without any second thoughts.
Talking about when the vaccination drive would go beyond the frontline workers and reach other people, Professor Vijay Raghavan said,
The analysis for covering the first phase of people that includes our frontline workers, people above the age of 50-years of age and those with comorbidities that is roughly around 30 crore people is that it will be substantially covered in seven to eight months. On day 1 of our vaccination programme, our target was to cover 3 lakh people, but we could achieve 64 per cent of it, which is 1.91 lakh people. So, I don’t think, we should focus on what has happened on day 1 of the vaccination programme and understand that this rate will double over the period of time as the logistic supply chain gets better oiled and gets better from each day’s experience. We will see a rapid completion of the first phase and then the other phase will get started in the country, this is the plan for now.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.