A dry run for administering COVID-19 vaccine will be held in all states on January 2, as the government prepares for what will be one of the world's biggest inoculation programmes.
This will be the second trial in the country for COVID-19 vaccine administration after four states - Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Gujarat - did a mock drill on December 28 and 29.
Also read: Explained | Is CoWIN, India's digital vaccine management solution, ready for a massive rollout?
"The dry run will be conducted by all the state and UT governments on 2nd January 2021 (Saturday). The activity is proposed to be conducted in all state capitals in at least three session sites; some states will also include districts that are situated in difficult terrain/have poor logistical support; Maharashtra and Kerala are likely to schedule the dry run in major cities other than their capital," the health ministry said in a statement on December 31.
The objective of the dry runs is to provide insights on any gaps or bottle-necks during actual conduct of vaccination.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare also said one objective of the dry run is to test implementation of the Co-WIN app, which will monitor transportation and distribution of doses.
"The objective of the dry run for COVID-19 vaccine introduction is to assess operational feasibility in the use of Co-WIN application in field environment, to test the linkages between planning and implementation and to identify the challenges and guide way forward prior to actual implementation. This is also expected to give confidence to programme managers at various levels," the ministry said.
No major issues were observed during the first dry run, the statement added.
India is yet to give the go-ahead to a vaccine candidate but ministers and officials have been hinting that the nod would be coming soon.
Also read: Expert panel to meet on January 1 to review data on Serum Institute, Bharat Biotech COVID-19 vaccines
Serum Institute of India (SII), Bharat Biotech and Pfizer have applied to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for emergency use authorisation (EUA) of vaccine candidates.
An expert panel will meet on January 1 to further review applications by Bharat Biotech and SII, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) said. Pune-based SII is manufacturing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was approved in the UK on December 30, and is less expensive and easier to store than the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.