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Pharma wrap | After a slow start, India's COVID-19 vaccination drive is picking up

The vaccination turnout, hovering at around 60 percent nationally, is gathering momentum and is now close to 67 percent.

January 24, 2021 / 02:48 PM IST
A healthcare worker receives a dose of Covishield, a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India, at a government-run hospital at Baruipur on the outskirts of Kolkata. (Image: Reuters)

A healthcare worker receives a dose of Covishield, a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India, at a government-run hospital at Baruipur on the outskirts of Kolkata. (Image: Reuters)

A week and one day into the world's biggest coronavirus vaccination drive, India has vaccinated around 16 lakh people, the government said on January 24.

After initial hesitancy about taking the vaccine and technical glitches in the CoWIN app, the platform to register for the jab, the rollout is gathering pace. India now ranks seventh in the world in the number of vaccine doses administered, at the current pace of about 2 lakh vaccinations a day, the country is expected to soon surpass others.

On January 16, India launched the vaccination drive, with frontline workers, including medical staff, to be inoculated in the first phase. The rollout came a few days after the country's India’s drug regulator gave the emergency use nod to Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech, and Covishield, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.

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The vaccine turnout, averaging around 60 percent nationally, has started to pick up and is close to 67 percent. States like Maharashtra and Delhi are seeing more people queuing up to get the jab.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The government has said it will inoculate about one crore healthcare workers in the first phase. This will be followed by two crore "frontline workers", including police, armed forces, municipal workers and revenue staff, getting the vaccine.

In the third phase, 27 crore people above 50 years of age and those with co-morbidities like diabetes, hypertension and organ transplant will get the vaccine.

Then the government may give open access, through the private market, to healthy adults, teenagers, children and then the neonates. The Centre will pick the tab for vaccinating three crore healthcare and frontline workers.

India’s active coronavirus cases on January 24 were at 1,84,408. The share of active cases is now at 1.73 percent. Five states Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal account for 75 percent of the total active cases in the country.

COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker: All you need to know about manufacturing and pricing

Why more people are rolling up their sleeves?

There is still some hesitancy in taking COVID-19 vaccine but there are more people who are queuing up.

The biggest reason could be that those who took the shot have become influencers, nudging others to go for vaccination. The government figures say only 0.0007 percent people have recorded hospitalisation against vaccinations, which is very low.

Also read: 62% Indians hesitant to get COVID-19 vaccine shot: LocalCircles survey

Reports of other nations showing interest in getting vaccines from India has come as a confidence boost. The government has increased the number of vaccine sessions from 3,351 on January 16 to 27,776.

The government has also managed to address the technical glitches facing CoWIN platform.

Covaxin, been received with scepticism, has been found to be safe and induced an immune response in Phase-1 study, the Lancet, a peer-reviewed British medical journal, has said.

The Lancet study comes amid reports that some healthcare workers, including doctors, were not turning up to take the indigenously developed jab, which was given the emergency approval under the "trial mode", over concerns of lack of clinical trial data.

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Viswanath Pilla is a business journalist with 14 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, Pilla covers pharma, healthcare and infrastructure sectors for Moneycontrol.
first published: Jan 24, 2021 02:21 pm

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