COVID-19 Vaccination Drive Begins In India!

The world’s biggest COVID-19 vaccination drive is all set to start across India from tomorrow, Saturday, the 16th of January 2021. As was decided and enumerated much earlier, during this first phase of vaccination drive around 30 million health sector and frontline workers will be getting the jabs of the vaccines against the novel Coronavirus, namely the Oxford’s Indian version Covishield manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and the fully indigenous Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech.


Jabs are to be administered from tomorrow to around 10 million doctors and healthcare workers, and then to cover around 20 million frontline workers during this initial phase. Next, around 270 million of people over the age of fifty and people with comorbidities are to be covered. The Government of India has already procured and dispatched 11 million doses of Covishield and 5.5 million doses of Covaxin, and the inoculation drive will be totally free of cost in this first phase with the Government bearing the cost. The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, will be inaugurating the drive at 10.30 AM on Saturday, the 16th of January 2021, virtually connecting around 3000 sites across the country.


For the first day on Saturday, it is being planned to inoculate around 3 lakh healthcare personnel in 3006 vaccination sites set up across the country with a cap of 100 people to be vaccinated per site. They will get the first jab from tomorrow, and there will be an interval of 28 days for the second dose. The Government had already clarified that people will not have the option of choosing any particular vaccine. An app named Co-Win has been created where the data of all inoculated beneficiaries will be uploaded and their progress will also be monitored linking their Aadhaar Cards, apart from all other information and exhaustive data about the pan-India rollout of the vaccines, logistics and the sites. The beneficiaries will also get a digital certificate which will give them information/reminders regarding the date and time for administering the second dose.


People of India have been assured of the safety of both the vaccines by the government over the last few days. They have also been told of possible side-effects like mild fever, headache and other similar symptoms that may last for one or two days, and they have been repeatedly told to not worry over this as side-effects of any vaccine are only normal. Two rounds of mock vaccination drive had already been organized pan-India preparing the country for the rollout from tomorrow.


The price of the Covishield vaccine is fixed at INR 200 per dose for the first 100 million doses to be procured by the Government of India, after which the Institute is likely to increase the price to INR 1000 per dose for sale in private markets. The price of Covaxin works out to be INR 206 per dose for the 5.5 million doses to be procured by the government. Bharat Biotech is supplying 1.65 million doses free to the government as a special gesture and would charge INR 295 per dose for the remaining 3.85 million doses which means that the actual price paid by the government is INR 206 per dose.


While the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, India’s Covishield, has an efficacy rate of over 70%, the fully indigenous Covaxin is yet to yield the phase-3 clinical trial results and hence there is no efficacy rate determined so far. However, the Indian drug regulator had certified it to be safe and approved it for restricted use, and later on all the official medical bodies of the government came out strongly about Covaxin vaccine’s safety and immunogenicity in their statements.


However, while a whole lot of other experts of the country had fully reaffirmed its safety there lingers still speculation and doubts about why should the Government of India be in such a hurry to go for a vaccine with efficacy rate yet to be determined and which is even a bit costlier. Besides, the government first announced that Covaxin was only a back-up vaccine that will be administered as per the Phase-3 trial protocols, and later on made a U-turn by saying that there will be no choice between the two vaccines for people. Perhaps, the government has done some supply-demand-cost-benefit analysis to handle the immensity of the planed drive and that it also aims at promoting an India-made vaccine across the globe after ascertaining its safety and immunogenicity that were revealed clearly in the first two human clinical trials conducted across the country.


In conclusion, we can only say that after experts have extensively dismissed all safety concerns of both the vaccines the people of India should come forward for vaccination without harboring any doubts, and as the drive progresses there will be a lot more vaccines available for them. Besides, all efficacy rates and long-term immune responses of all the vaccines available at the moment are relative and subjective, and only in the long run we can come to realistic finds about the real effectiveness of the vaccines to fight the novel Coronavirus. 


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