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India needs to vaccinate 70% population to contain COVID-19: Vaccine expert Gagandeep Kang

Gagandeep Kang said that, based on the government’s current plan to immunize 300 million people by July 2021, reaching two-thirds of the population will take us into 2022.

December 30, 2020 / 09:20 AM IST
Gagandeep Kang

Gagandeep Kang

To slow the spread of COVID-19 and decrease transmission, India needs to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the population, said Gagandeep Kang, professor of Microbiology at the Christian Medical College. The government has said that about 30 crore Indians will be vaccinated against novel coronavirus by July 2021.

Speaking to the Times of India, Kang said that - based on the government’s current plan to immunise 300 million people by July 2021 - "reaching two-thirds of the population will take us into 2022".

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She said that the government would need to rely on vaccine supplies from Indian manufacturers as the supply for the entire population would not be available immediately.

"The supplies will be slow initially but will begin to ramp up in two-three months. Given the size of our population, I think in a reasonably optimistic scenario, it will take until the end of 2021, the beginning of 2022, for people who are not prioritised to get the vaccines," Kang said.


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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Speaking about building the public's trust in COVID-19 vaccines, the expert said that it is important to communicate the value of vaccination. "Information about the vaccines and the vaccination process should be shared early and often. Transparency is essential," she added.

On logistical challenges that India might face during immunisation, Kang, who was the first Indian woman to be elected a Fellow of the UK-based Royal Society, said that vaccinating vulnerable and remote populations, particularly outside cities, will be a challenge.

Read: COVID-19 vaccine dry run concludes successfully in four states, says Health Ministry

"We know already from childhood immunization that the poorest, furthest way and most vulnerable in our unequal society are the least likely to be vaccinated – we need to be building targeted communication strategies for those communities now," she added.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry said on December 29 that the two-day vaccine dry run carried out in four states concluded smoothly with some minor hiccups which are being addressed.

The end-to-end dry run was carried out in Krishna district in Andhra Pradesh, in Rajkot and Gandhinagar in Gujarat, Ludhiana and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar (Nawanshahr) in Punjab and Sonitpur and Nalbari districts in Assam.

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first published: Dec 30, 2020 09:20 am
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