- COVID-19 transmission chain can be broken in six months, says AIIMS Chief
- Vaccinated individuals will be monitored for side-effects: Dr. Guleria
- One or more vaccines may get regulatory approval in early 2021: Dr. Guleria
New Delhi: As the country waits for regulatory approvals for COVID-19 vaccine candidates undergoing trials and gets ready logistically for the roll-out, one question that is on people’s mind is that by when they can hope for normalcy to return. It is going to be one year since SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 was first discovered in Wuhan province of China but the pandemic is still raging on with no signs of ending any time soon. NDTV spoke to Dr. Randeep Guleria, Director of the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, to learn about the country’s vaccine roll-out strategy and how much time will it take to immunise a sufficient number of people to break the chain of transmission.
According to Dr. Guleria, one or more vaccine candidates may get regulatory approvals for emergency use by early next year. He said,
We will get a vaccine out soon but at the same time, there is a mammoth task at hand: how to vaccinate the population we have prioritised in a smooth manner while maintaining cold chains and a sufficient number of vaccinators to administer the vaccine and monitor these individuals for any side-effects. So, it’s going to be a huge task which will be almost like holding elections in each state. The government at the centre, state and local levels have to work on a war footing to get all of this in place so that as soon as the vaccine is out after approval we can start vaccinating as early as possible.
He said that it could take up to six months before a sufficient number of people could be vaccinated to break the chain of coronavirus transmission and another six months before life could get close to the pre-COVID days.
I’m hopeful that in the next six months, we will have two things. A sufficient number of people who have got the infection and recovered and have some kind of immunity and people who will get the vaccine. Thus, the spread will be contained, he said.
Another aim to be achieved by vaccines, according to Dr. Guleria, is to reduce the mortality rate by vaccinating high-risk individuals. He said,
We are vaccinating the frontline workers, the healthcare workers — whoever has a higher chance of getting the infection and those who are above the age of 50 and those who have co-morbidities.
Dr. Guleria further said that the ‘rider’ here would be the availability of enough doses and how soon can it be distributed to the population. He said,
The government aims to identify and inoculate 30 crore people and we have to give out 60 crore doses, since two doses are to be given to each individual. We need that many syringes and needles also and we have to do it over a period of six months.
The country is conducting clinical trials of AstraZeneca-Oxford University’s vaccine candidate which is being produced by Pune based Serum Institute of India as Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin which are being considered for emergency authorisation. He said that it is important to have confidence in the safety and efficacy of vaccines that roll-out even if there is some delay. He asserted that the trial data has to be comprehensive and complete. Dr. Guleria said,
When we talk about safety, it is not just about the immediate side-effects but the side-effects which may happen on follow-ups. So, we have to conduct sufficient follow-up for 6-8 weeks to see that the vaccine is safe. Follow-ups are also required during this duration to see what the degree of immunity vaccine gives is and what the level of protection that one gets is, in order to see how effective the administered vaccine was. This takes time but it is important.
Talking about the preparation in place for the people who get the adverse effect of the vaccine and are looked after, Dr. Guleria said,
This is something that is already being done by the government. Any vaccine that gets rolled out would be authorised for emergency use. An emergency authorisation means that we have to continue to follow up the vaccinated individuals after taking due consent to see for any long-term adverse effects which may happen or an adverse effect that can happen in the population which was not properly covered during the phase-3 trial. The people to be vaccinated will be informed about the side-effects that can happen and will be given information on how to seek help if they experience any side-effects. And if there are any serious reactions, there are plans at the state level to admit and monitor them.
When asked about how the government plans to ensure that people complete their vaccine schedule by getting the second dose as well, Dr. Guleria said,
This will be taken care of by digital platform. The government has already set up an application ‘Co-Win’. Through this app, people will be automatically informed the schedule of the next dose once they take the first one.
Dr. Guleria said that even though the country may roll-out vaccines against COVID-19, it would not end the pandemic immediately. He said that people would be still required to act responsibly and follow preventive measures but they would be in a much better position to lead a comparatively normal life. While signing off, Dr. Guleria said,
I think we will have to wait for maybe a year or so before we can say that yes we have now really gone to what we call a post-pandemic phase.
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.