India shapes strategy for coronavirus vaccine rollout

Written By: Gravitas desk WION
New Delhi Published: Nov 26, 2020, 12.29 AM(IST)

Image for representation Photograph:( AFP )

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We have an early idea of India's playbook

As the world inches closer to a vaccine that works, India is shaping its own strategy for a rollout to decide how will the vaccine be distributed. Because the world has its eyes on how India handles this. This is for two reasons,

  • India has a large population. Putting an end to the pandemic here will be a big victory in the fight against the Wuhan virus. And vaccines are being seen as the ultimate weapon to defeat this pandemic.
  • India is one of the biggest exporters of vaccines. And the early batches will have limited supplies. India has the responsibility of making sure that a shot reaches every Indian...

So, the world has an eye on what India's strategy could look like.

We have an early idea of India's playbook.

India could vaccinate at least 250 to 300 million citizens by july 2021. This could include about 30 million healthcare and frontline workers.

For this, India could end up procuring 500 to 600 million vaccine doses. This is a massive undertaking. One that would require coordination at the level of the central government, the states and the districts.

The most important question is, who will get these vaccines?

This could be a list of priorities.

  • Healthcare workers would come first.
  • Then citizens above 65 years of age.
  • Then people within the age bracket of 50 to 65.
  • Followed by those who are below 50 years of age and suffering from ailments

Reportedly, members of the police, paramilitary and those working in sanitisation could also get a shot on priority.

If you are below 50 years and are healthy you'll be last in line to get a shot. The vaccines will be given out only after regulatory approvals.

First, the manufacturers will have to move for permissions. They are likely to be allowed to supply the vaccines under emergency use authorisation. The vaccines will go to the health care workers first.

At least initially these vaccines may not be available commercially. You may not be able to go to a pharmacy and buy this shot. This means if you are healthy you will have to wait a little while longer.

India may not opt for the Pfizer vaccine.

Reportedly, Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has said it doesn't make sense for India to consider it yet. The vaccine hasn't been even given a license yet even by US Government.

Pfizer is an American company. It has moved for emergency authorization in the US. Its vaccine is one of the frontrunners in the rollout. The company plans to distribute the vaccine by Mid-December worldwide.

But there is a problem. This vaccine needs to be stored at minus 70-degree temperatures. Basically, in an ultra low-temperature freezer. Despite the hurdles Pfizer remains confident.

"If times go as as they should, we believe that by mid-december, at the end of december, the vaccine may be authorised for use and that way it can begin to be used in the united states, but we are also doing the same submission in other agency regulators around the world, in Australia, in Japan, in the united kingdom, in the European economic community, with which we are convinced that before the end of the year the vaccine will be used not only in the united states but in various parts of the world," said Alejandro Cane, Pfizer's head of vaccines, medical and scientific affairs for Latin America and Canada.

So, it seems like Pfizer will send its first vaccine consignments to the developed world.

Which vaccine will India end up getting then?

 Reportedly, India has placed advanced orders for two vaccines. The Astrazeneca-Oxford shot and Sputnik V.

The Oxford vaccine will be supplied via the Serum Institute of India. The company says it has already produced 40 million doses and by January they could have up to 100 million doses.

The Serum Institute says it plans to sell each shot to the Indian Government for three dollars or 250 Indian Rupees.

This oxford vaccine can be up to 90 percent effective.

What about Sputnik V shot?

On Tuesday, its makers said this vaccine is 95 percent effective and they will sell it at 10 dollars per shot. 

This is a two-shot vaccine. So that means 20 dollars for two shots.

In India, makers of the Sputnik V have tied up with Dr Reddy's. A trial is underway in India. 

Earlier this month Russian President Vladimir Putin said that India and China may produce the Sputnik V for the world.

There is another option....Covaxin, made by Bharat Biotech.

Reportedly, Covaxin could be at least 60 percent effective. And it could be rolled out by mid-2021. The vaccine is in its last phase of trials.

So there are multiple options for India to choose from. All that we have to do now is wait for these shots to clear the safety tests.

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