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Everything You Should Know About India’s Covid Vaccine Strategy

Posted: April 22, 2021
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The Indian Govt recently announced a COVID vaccine strategy – everyone over 18 eligible from 1st May 2021. Here are things you should know.

With the 2nd wave of COVID engulfing the country currently, and massive numbers dying every day, it is worth the while taking a look at what steps the Indian Govt is taking and has promised, in the months to come – the war against the virus is far from over.

The main concerns now are the vaccination programme, the lack of essential supplies and facilities at hospitals for adequate care of positive cases and those with a serious condition, and the worries over super spreader events happening around the country like the Kumbh, the elections rallies, and a lack of responsibility in the people.

What is the Centre’s COVID vaccine strategy?

The Government of India announced the ‘liberalised and accelerated’ 3rd phase of its Covid-19 vaccination program would start from 1st May 2021 for all Indian citizens above the age of 18.

A quick look at the stages of the COVID vaccine strategy.

The first Phase of COVID vaccination began on 16th January 2021, for health care and front-line workers, as they are the most vulnerable.

The second phase began on 1st March 2021 where everyone above the age of 60 and those above the age of 45 with comorbidities were to be vaccinated. The eligibility was relaxed from April 1st, 2021 to include everyone above the age of 45 years whether they had comorbidities or not.

The third phase of the vaccine strategy brings with it significant changes. So what happens in the 3rd phase, and what about the current shortage of vaccines?

The vaccine manufacturers will be required to supply 50% of their Central Drug Laboratory (CDL) released doses to the Government of India and the remaining 50% to State Governments and the open market.

The manufactures will be required to transparently declare the price of the 50% they would be offering the State Government and the open market. The State Governments, private hospitals, industrial houses, etc. would be procuring the vaccine at these prices declared by the manufacturers.

Private hospitals would be required to procure vaccines exclusively from the open market.

Imported vaccines will be consumed entirely through the open market.

The vaccination providers can declare their self-vaccination prices. Everybody above the age of 18 will be permitted to seek vaccination from such providers.

The Government of India vaccination centers will continue to function as before and will provide free vaccines to health care workers, frontline workers, and people above the age of 45 years.

All vaccination would have to abide by the mandated Government Protocol including registration and real-time reporting of stock of vaccine.

How to for register for COVID vaccination

Currently the those above the age of 18, intending to get vaccinated can register themselves through the Cowin portal here or through the Arogya Setu mobile application. The person registering is required to fill in the details of their photo I.D proof, name, gender and year of birth. The list of valid photo I.D proofs are as listed here.

From my personal experience gained from the second phase of vaccination, where my parents and elderly relatives got vaccinated, the private hospitals in the city administered the vaccines on a first come first serve basis. Seeking prior appointments only proved to be a futile effort. Hence, I reached out to few private hospitals to check the procedure for the third phase, as I wanted to be prepared.

But the picture seems just ambiguous now, as I was informed that they do not have any instructions as yet. It has just been a couple of days since the announcement has been made, and with a little over a week remaining for the third phase to kick off, I am hoping there is some clarity in the days to follow.

Will the ‘liberalised and accelerated’ phase of vaccination be effective?

COVID vaccine shortages

The third phase of COVID vaccination aims at making the vaccine accessible to all. This has been done by enabling the States to procure the vaccines directly from the manufacturers and also permitting the import of vaccines, with the hope of tackling the issue of shortage, but has come at a cost to the citizens.

A section of citizens need to pay for the COVID vaccine

Following the Government announcement permitting the manufacturers to declare the price for vaccines to be supplied to the state and in the open market, Serum India has announced their rates.

The rates are going to heavily burden the common citizen’s pocket, and some people have been questioning paying for vaccines when so many countries are vaccinating their citizens for free. Yes, it is still available through Government Covid-19 centers free of cost, but in an overpopulated nation like ours managing to secure an appointment itself is a harrowing task.

Private hospitals can now charge for vaccination as well in addition to the price of the vaccine. Will this not result in creating a divide based on economical status where access to the vaccine is concerned? While the rich could easily pay for their dosage, what would be the plight of the daily wage labourer or the domestic helper who is exposed more to the dangers of the virus?

Has there been a delay in including the younger population in the eligibility criteria for the vaccination?

Yes, the phases of vaccination were planned with an intent to cover those who were more at danger from the virus to be vaccinated first. However, making age the sole criteria was a very limiting and unwise move. There were citizens below the age of 45 who could have been in equal danger from the virus as those above 45 owing to medical conditions. Why were they left out in the initial phases of vaccination?

This tweet is a cry of anguish from a person who lost a friend due to this oversight. This is definitely not the lone case. Shouldn’t people with medical conditions, irrespective of their age, have been considered a priority for the vaccination?

Dealing with the need for medicines and other resources

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority has reduced the price of Remdesivir injection of all major brands, with the intent of making the drug more affordable and increasing its availability to needy individuals.

Individuals and orgs kicked into action first, as soon as shortages and essential requirements were noticed – there are several initiatives through online platforms and social media by private organizations and at a community level to help in the time of crisis for providing help in procuring oxygen, getting access to medical services, or locating plasma donors; a list of a few resourceful online portals are listed here.

After this the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare portal listed the details of the helpline numbers and details of the COVID 19 facilities in the states and union territories.

The Delhi High Court has directed the Govt to authorise compulsory licensing of drugs. This is an authorization given to a third-party by the Controller General to make, use or sell a particular product or use a particular process which has been patented, without the need of the permission of the patent owner. Manufacturers of drugs are to manufacture on a war footing and issue voluntary licenses to other manufacturers. There is also a directive to ensure regular checking to prevent hoarding and clack marketing of essential drugs.

It remains to be seen, how effectively this COVID vaccine strategy is implemented by the Government at the centre and state level.

Safety should be our priority

The announcement of the third phase in India’s COVID vaccine strategy which aims at including all adult citizens comes as a ray of hope that normalcy could be near. But until then the safety protocols need to be abided, the most important ones being using a mask and secondly social distancing.

For effective utilisation of any Government schemes, it is essential to stay informed and also ensure that the source of information is trustworthy. So, reach out to the hospitals in your city, contact your family physician, be informed about the ground situation of the vaccination process in your city. Due diligence is the key. Be informed and be safe.

Image source: kfuhlert on pixabay

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A dreamer by passion and an Advocate by profession. Mother to an ever energetic and

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