In a significant announcement, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said on Sunday that Covid-19 vaccines currently under trial in India will be administered two or three doses.
The vaccine being developed by the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech require two doses while the Zydus Cadila Healthcare vaccine requires three doses. For other vaccines in clinical stages, the dosing is still being tested, he said.
Will acquiring and inoculating large swathes of the population with multiple dosages be more complicated, or would a single-dose vaccine immunization plan have been easier? Yes, say experts.
Speaking to News18, Professor Anant Bhan, a bioethics expert, said, "Looking at data from clinical trials at an early stage will tell us what the safety profile of the vaccine is and how many doses are needed to get a particular immune response. If it is a two or three dosage vaccine, the cost of acquiring the vaccine would be higher." he said.
In the fourth edition of 'Samvaad', Dr Harsh Vardhan said that India would be in a position to procure 400 to 500 million doses of the vaccine by July 2021. He said, "Even if we have multiple vaccines, they will all be safe and will elicit the requisite immune response against coronavirus.”
Sharing his views on single-dose versus double-dose vaccines, he had said that for quick control of the pandemic, it is desirable to have a single-dose vaccine.
The most important component of the planning of disbursal of vaccines is the cold chain and other logistics which need to ensure that no glitches occur in vaccine delivery even at the last mile.
'PRIORITIZING HIGH RISK GROUPS FOR VACCINE'
The Union Health Minister said the Government was not prioritizing the young and working-class for the Covid-19 vaccine for economic reasons, as is being rumoured. He said, "The prioritization of groups for Covid-19 vaccine shall be based on two key considerations: Occupational hazard and risk of exposure to infection, and the risk of developing severe disease and increased mortality."
On the issue of emergency use authorization of Covid-19 vaccines in India, the Minister said that the issue is being deliberated at present. "Adequate safety and efficacy data is required for emergency use authorization vaccine approval for ensuring patient safety. Further course of action will depend on the data generated," he added.
The minister also said the government is open to assessing the feasibility of introducing several Covid-19 vaccines in the country as per their availability for the Indian population. Dr Harsh Vardhan said, "The present situation demands multiple vaccine partners to ensure maximum vaccination coverage to the Indian population and the use of a single vaccine from a certain company should not be seen through a negative lens."
STOCKS TO BE LIMITED IN THE BEGINNING
On the issue of the government's plan to roll out the Covid-19 vaccine by prioritizing target groups in the entire population, Vardhan said that it is anticipated that supplies of Covid-19 vaccines would be available in limited quantities in the beginning. He said, “In a huge country like India, it is critical to prioritize vaccine delivery based on various factors such as risk of exposure, comorbidity among various population groups, mortality rate among Covid-19 cases, and several others.” He also added that India is looking at the availability of several different types of vaccines, of which some may be suitable for a particular age group while others may not.
NEED FOR ADVOCACY
He also spoke on the need of massive advocacy required for building community sensitization activities to understand the reasons for vaccine hesitancy and address them appropriately.