With multiple Covid-19 vaccine candidates across the globe entering phase 3 of human trials, the government on Thursday said it has actively begun engaging with multiple stakeholders on the two crucial aspects related to distribution and administration of a potential vaccine for Covid-19.
The Centre said it is currently deliberating on two key issues —logistics and to which section of the population the vaccine needs to be administered on priority.
At a press briefing, Rajesh Bhushan, Officer on Special Duty, Ministry of Health, on Thursday said, “…Has there been a discussion on prioritising how a vaccine would be distributed and administer, if and when it is available —the answer is, yes; there are multiple stakeholders within government and Ministry of Health has started actively engaging with such stakeholders.”
Asked which section of the population the vaccine will be administered on priority, he said, “When the vaccine comes, it has to be administered on a much larger scale compared to the existing vaccines. There is near unanimity on this. The questions which are being discussed are the questions of logistics: how it will be procured and stored, and how it will be made available. But there are equally important ethical questions: who gets it first? These questions are still under deliberations in the Union government.”
Meanwhile, as the number of Covid-19 recoveries in the country touched a million, the Centre flagged that developing herd immunity in the absence of a vaccine is not an option. “Herd immunity is kind of indirect protection, but it happens only when the population becomes immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through the previous infection… In 2011, India had a population of 121 crore according to Census data… for a country of this size, if we are talking about developing herd immunity without the vaccine. That is not an option,” Bhushan said.
“It can only be an outcome, that too, at a very high cost. Lakhs of people have to get infected, get admitted to hospitals, collapsing the healthcare infrastructure, and resulting in numerous deaths. Herd immunity can never be a strategic option,” Bhushan said.