The vaccine against the novel coronavirus, when it arrives, will be prioritised on the principle of “protecting the health system and pandemic control system”, and those who have “excessive risk of mortality”, NITI Aayog member Dr V K Paul, who chairs the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19, has said.
Resources will not be a problem in providing the vaccine to the people, Dr Paul said.
“There are three vaccines being tested in India. Two additional ones have recently been given permission for trial. That work is yet to start, but three are already being subjected to human trials,” Dr Paul said. “Two of them — the ICMR Bharat and the Cadila vaccines are Indian, indigenous vaccines. Both are in the final stages of phase II and the results should be available very soon, and then they will move to phase III.”
Also, Dr Paul said, “Serum (Institute of India) is manufacturing and conducting phase III trials for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. That vaccine is in phase III (trials) and (is) therefore, most advanced in terms of R&D… So, if that is successful then the possibility of vaccination opens up… By all accounts, we’re looking forward to early 2021, when such a possibility in an optimistic scenario is possible.”
Dr Paul, however, cautioned that “You cannot take effectiveness for granted. We cannot take the vaccine development for granted.” Therefore, he said, “We must continue to hope to have a vaccine but we cannot lower the guard in terms of the four strategies (testing-tracking-tracing; containment; hospital preparedness and response, clinical care; and wearing masks and observing social distancing) for control…”
Asked if the vaccine will be made available free to all Indians, Dr Paul said: “The vaccine in initial stages, in any country, is not going to be available in unlimited supply because we are zero at the moment… It will take months.”
“Hence, in the initial phases, the vaccination will be prioritised and that prioritisation is based on the principle of protecting the health system and pandemic control system and to protect those who have excessive risk of mortality… For providing vaccine options to Indian people resources will not be a problem.”
Paul said that about 1 crore healthcare workers and frontline workers will be given priority. “We don’t know how far we have to go… So, we have to protect the health system…” he said.
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