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Never spoke about vaccinating entire country, says Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan

Vaccinating the entire population may not be required if 'critical mass of people' is vaccinated and the chain of virus transmission is broken, explained Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research Balram Bhargava

December 01, 2020 / 07:20 PM IST

The government on December 1 said it never spoke about vaccinating the entire country and that "it's important that we discuss such scientific issues, based on factual information only".

"I just want to make this clear that the government has never spoken about vaccinating the entire country. It's important that we discuss such scientific issues, based on factual information only," Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said while responding to a question on when a vaccine can be provided to everyone in the country.

Explaining the statement further, the Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Balram Bhargava, said vaccinating the entire population may not be required if "critical mass of people" is vaccinated and the chain of virus transmission is broken.

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Earlier, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had said the Centre plans to vaccinate 20-25 crore Indians by July 2021. 


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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Moreover, the Centre also said adverse event will not have an effect on the COVID-19 vaccine timeline "in any manner whatsoever" against the backdrop of a recent adverse effect reported during the Serum Institute of India's (SII's) 'Covidshield' vaccine trial.

"Whenever clinical trial starts, subjects are expected to sign prior informed consent form. This is global practice, it happens across all countries. Form tells subject about possible adverse events that may happen in case one decides to participate in trial," Bhushan said, according to news agency ANI.

"Clinical trials are multi-centric and multi-site. Each site has an Institutional Ethics Committee, which is independent of manufacturer or government. In case of any adverse event, this Committee takes note and gives its report to Drug Controller General of India (DGCI)," Bhushan added.

Also Read | Coronavirus vaccine update: Russia's Sputnik V likely to be available for supply from January

A 40-year-old man who took part in the 'Covidshield' vaccine trial had alleged serious side effects, including a virtual neurological breakdown and impairment of cognitive functions. He had sought Rs 5 crore compensation in a legal notice to SII and others, besides seeking a halt to the trial.

On its part, the SII on November 29 rejected the claims and threatened to seek damages in "excess of Rs 100 crore" for "malicious" allegations.

For our complete coverage of the novel coronavirus, click here.
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