The government plans to vaccinate at least 300 million people by August 2021, said Dr VK Paul, the head of National Expert Group on COVID-19 vaccination. He said that the Centre would team up with local and global companies to secure adequate doses.
"Our aspiration to vaccinate 300 million people will depend on the availability of enough number of vaccines. We hope given our vaccine production and development, it’s possibly within our grasp. Our vision for vaccination in the first phase may be a liberal one but we need to do this much to lower mortality impact," Paul told ET NOW.
Paul also said that "this week was very important for the country’s vaccine plans". Pfizer, Serum Institute of India, and Bharat Biotech have so far submitted applications for emergency use authorisation. A Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) expert panel will meet on December 9 to review the applications.
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.
Paul also said that there was hope of early licence for all of them. "We are very optimistic that a vaccine will be available for the first phase of rollout very soon in the country. We so far have three vaccine candidates under consideration for licensing. There is hope that early licence is possible in respect of all of them or any one of them,” Paul added.
At a press briefing on December 8, the NITI Aayog member (Health) said that the COVID-19 situation in India has stabilised. With active cases reducing, a "clear-cut declining trend" in the pandemic is being seen even though the situation in many other countries is becoming quite serious, he said.
Asked what steps would be followed by the DCGI in the absence of a water-tight emergency use authorisation law for granting a licence to vaccine makers, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said not all countries' regulatory framework or rules and acts mention emergency use authorisation.
"So, the fact that this phrase is not used in the national regulatory framework of any country does not mean that a specific country would not have an enabling provision to accord an approval which is early and distinct from a regular market approval. India's regulatory framework has a specific provision for grant of emergency use authorisation, although this phrase is not used," he said.Click here for Moneycontrol's full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak