- The vaccination drive will begin with 3,000 sites on January 16
- Each vaccination site will cover 100 beneficiaries in a day
- 30 crore people will be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the coming months
New Delhi: India’s Coronavirus vaccination programme which is scheduled to begin from January 16 is gaining momentum. The batches of two COVID-19 vaccines that have received emergency use license – Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin – have flown to states and union territories for the first phase of vaccination. Speaking to NDTV, Dr VK Paul, member (health), NITI Aayog informed that vaccines have been allotted to states as per their healthcare workers data. He also informed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch COVID-19 vaccination drive. According to the reports, PM Modi is likely to virtually interact with health workers in some cities after launching the drive.
In an interview with NDTV, Dr Paul who is also the Chairman of the National Expert Group on vaccine implementation for COVID-19 answered several questions related to the world’s largest vaccination programme. Here is everything you need to know about it.
NDTV: Where will the first vaccine dose be administered on January 16 and who is the first person going to be?
Dr VK Paul: Vaccines will be administered across the country; practically, all the states and Union territories, so there will not be one person but many persons perhaps.
NDTV: Have you identified the first frontline workers as yet?
Dr VK Paul: Yes, we have identified the whole list of frontline workers and they have been staggered into schedules based on the vaccine implementation sites. The first phase in terms of grouping, and other things, is practically all ready.
NDTV: How many people will be inoculated every day starting January 16?
Dr VK Paul: The inaugural day is the warming up day. In the first 15 days of the vaccination programme, we are hoping to have at least 3,000 vaccination sites and our plan is that each site covers 100 beneficiaries. So, that is the potential number that we are looking at. The number of vaccination sites will be ramped up to 5,000 and more. In the deep and the most intense phase of the first wave of immunisation, there will be multiples of this number in order to cover the 30 crore people that we want to cover in a reasonable period of time.
NDTV: How and when will citizens with co-morbidities be identified? How will all of these individuals, say someone with diabetes, someone who has a heart ailment. How is there a guarantee that these citizens will be in that first 30 crore?
Dr VK Paul: Remember, how we are doing it is in the following manner. Firstly, when we look at the individuals above the age of above 50 years it takes care of almost 70 per cent of people with co-morbidities. That is why the age criterion has been chosen and that is being very well received by other nations in fact, that this is a very pragmatic approach to do so. Then there is a group of people below 50 years who have co-morbidities and a very eminent committee of 15 to 18 experts has looked into what criteria is to be used in different conditions including heart conditions, liver, cancer, kidney disease, diabetes and others. Based on that criterion and the availability of proof in terms of clinical records, a framework has been created. We are now looking at how to convert that framework into a practical way of doing so in consultation with state governments. This will be ready well in time. Remember, this effort is a phased effort like in any other country. So, we are beginning in a certain way and will gradually be ramped it up.
NDTV: When will the Co-WIN app be opened up to the public for registration after you have finished this phase?
Dr VK Paul: After a few days. Currently, we are beginning with healthcare workers and aiming at 1 crore people then another 2 crore frontline workers but as these dovetail into each other, there will then be a possibility because we will have enough vaccine stockpile coming in, the additional ways will be created. We want to stabilise the programme quickly and then go into the third broad category of people and that is our real interest in a way. Because that is where the largest group of individuals will be vaccinated and that is what is going to make the ultimate difference to the expectation that we have from this vaccine programme in terms of its adverse effect to ameliorate and also pandemic control objective by shooting down the chain of transmission.
NDTV: Will Pfizer need to carry out trials in India?
Dr VK Paul: Well, as of now, the norm is anybody who wants to market vaccine in India; a bridging study is done because we have a diverse population in our country. Our genetic mix and health parameters are not very similar to other nations in a way. So, it has been a scientific decision and a scientific norm that anybody who wants to come into our country has to perform a bridging trial and that is a necessity and a paradigm today.
NDTV: When will there be efficacy data on Covaxin or some of the other drugs which are coming on line in our country?
Dr VK Paul: Covaxin trials I believe are going forward very robustly. The second dose is now being given and a follow-up is being carried out in a systematic manner. My guess is that it will be in February sometime but I need to check more specifically.
Before signing off, when NDTV asked, a few months down the road, when a common person wants to get a vaccine, what will be required, Dr Paul suggested waiting for one’s turn. He said,
Prioritisation is a must in this process and all nations are following it. If you are healthy and below 50 years of age, you please wait and let those citizens who need it more, get it in the spirit of public health response, in the spirit of our societal responsibility. In the first seven to eight months, we are focused on the 30 crore people about which we have talked quite often and we know who those people are, who are the needier.
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.