A day after Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan announced broad outlines of India’s vaccine strategy, one of the country’s most eminent medical scientists underlined the need for clarity on prioritisation.
“Prioritisation needs to define purpose. If the goal is to prevent as much disease as possible, then we should vaccinate those most at risk of severe disease – healthcare workers, the elderly, those with comorbidities, etc.,” said Dr Gagandeep Kang, professor of microbiology at Christian Medical College Vellore, who played the critical role in the development of the indigenous rotavirus vaccine.
“But if the goal is to prevent transmission, we should be vaccinating younger, working-age populations who will be interacting more with others. Without clarity on the goals, we cannot prioritise,” Dr Kang told The Indian Express.
The Health Minister said on Sunday that the target was to receive and utilise 400 million to 500 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to cover approximately 25 crore people by July 2021.
“There has been very detailed guidance on principles to use for allocation and planning for supply and delivery, issued by WHO and partners; it would be useful to have the prioritisation strategy more clearly described. For example, assuming the vaccine is prioritised for healthcare workers, will infectious disease consultants get it before pathologists?” Dr Kang said.
“Similarly, a ward boy may be with patients all day long while the doctor may spend one hour a day with patients; who gets the vaccine first?”
Dr Kang added, “But ramping up supply and delivery is going to take time. All vaccines so far are promising. No vaccine that has come into human clinical trials has been stopped as yet for a safety concern, even if some have had a temporary stopping of recruitment. Any vaccine in phase 3 has an about 50-60 per cent chance of success, so we should wait and see which ones are shown to reduce disease, because we do not know yet.”
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