Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the nation on COVID-19 situation
A pan-India lockdown would not be required if the COVID-19 guidelines are followed properly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his address to the nation on April 20.
A total lockdown should be considered as a last resort in the fight against coronavirus, Modi stressed, adding that the states must instead use micro-containment zones as the go-to strategy.
"I urge the states to consider lockdowns only as the last option and focus on creating micro-containment zones," he said.
The onus of preventing a lockdown is on the citizens by acting cautiously and in accordance with the safety protocol, Modi said, adding that "we have to save the country from a lockdown". He also appealed to the youth to help the authorities "enforce COVID-appropriate behaviour".
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.
Modi, in his address, noted that the demand for medical oxygen has shot up in several parts of the country. "Centre, states and private sector are working together to bridge oxygen deficit," he said.
Apart from oxygen supplies, the Centre and state governments are also focusing on ramping up the health infrastructure, Modi said. "Work is on to increase the number of beds in hospitals. In some cities, large COVID-19 dedicated hospitals are being built," he added.
The prime minister also credited the robustness of India's pharmaceutical sector in the fight against the pandemic. "The pharma industry is going to ramp up production of necessary drugs even more. We are lucky that we have a strong pharma sector," he said.
The second wave of coronavirus has hit India like a "storm", Modi stated, adding that the country is waging another battle against the pandemic. "The challenge is daunting," he said.
"The challenge before is big but we have to overcome it with our resolve, courage and preparation," he added.
Modi claimed that the decisions taken by the government over the last few days will help in improving the situation rapidly.
The move to open up vaccination for all aged above 18 is a major step towards offsetting the impact of COVID-19, the prime minister said.
"India with two 'made in India' vaccines started the world's largest vaccination programme. Till now, more than 12 crore vaccine doses have been administered. From May 1, those above the age of 18 years can be vaccinated," he said.
The vaccination at government-run hospitals, however, would continue free of cost for the priority groups - healthcare workers, other frontline workers and those aged above 45, Modi clarified.
The vaccination drive so far has yielded success, with over 12 crore vaccine doses administered so far, he pointed out. "A large section of our senior population has been vaccinated," he added.
The Centre liberalised the roll-out of vaccine by allowing the manufacturers to release 50 percent of their production in the open market at a pre-determined rate.
Although the move addresses the longstanding Opposition demand of removing the vaccine eligibility criteria, it has drawn criticism over the fears of high pricing.
"Modi government has abdicated its responsibility of price fixation by permitting the manufacturer to determine the price for 50 percent of quantity produced. Why? Ultimately, the poor and disadvantaged suffer as companies make money and a complicit government shuts its eyes," Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.