India likely to get first shots of Covid-19 vaccine by January 13

However, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the final decision will be taken by the government
Last Updated : 06 January 2021, 01:54 IST

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Less than a year after the pandemic struck, India is now ready with two vaccines to launch the first phase of its mass vaccination campaign with the Centre asserting that the large scale inoculation of doctors, nurses and front line workers can even start within the next one week.

"Within ten days of the accelerated approval (emergency use authorisation), the vaccination drive can be rolled out, subject to the government approval,” Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said here on Thursday, 48 hours after the Drugs Controller General of India cleared the two Covid-19 vaccines for restricted emergency use in India.

According to Bhushan’s argument, the roll out can happen anytime by Jan 13 since the vaccine was approved on January 3.

However, the government is yet to sign a purchase agreement with Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech as the two sides are negotiating on the price.

Initially the vaccine would be administered to one crore healthcare workers and two crore front line workers who would be from the armed forces, central and state police forces, and municipal workers.

The two groups have already been identified and their data was populated in the Co-WIN platform, the digital platform to manage one of the world’s largest adult mass vaccination drives. An expert panel would shortly announce the selection criteria for the remaining 27 crore, which would predominantly include senior citizens with comorbidities.

After batch testing, the two manufacturers – Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech – would dispatch their vaccines to four large central government temperature-controlled depots at Karnal, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata from where the vaccines would be taken to 37 similar state-level vaccine depots. From these 41 cold chain points, the vaccines would be taken to the district for inoculation.

Bhushan said the entire distribution network was in place and the two dry runs – the first one in four states and the second one at 286 sites in 125 districts – prepared the authorities to go ahead with the never-done-before exercise.

The vaccination would happen in the wake of India registering 1,50,000 Covid-19 deaths. The toll stands at 1,49,850 and would surpass the 1.5 lakh mark by Wednesday if the current trend of more than 200 daily deaths continues.

“The vaccination coverage of the vulnerable needs to be completed on priority. It is important to ensure that the elderly and persons with comorbidities are enumerated through house to house surveys,” Giridhar Babu, an epidemiologist at the Public Health Foundation of India told DH. “By July we would be having enough vaccines to inoculate the prioritised people,” said V K Paul, NITI Ayog member and a former professor at AIIMS.

Bhushan also clarified that there was no export ban on the Covid-19 vaccines as claimed by the Serum Institute’s Adar Poonawalla.

Published 05 January 2021, 11:21 IST

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