Covid-19 vaccination drive everyone’s responsibility

[ Dr Komling Perme ]

On 16 January, 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Covid-19 vaccination drive in the country, the world’s largest vaccination drive against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which caused the Covid-19 pandemic.

The objective of the vaccination is to attain herd immunity against the SARS-Covid-2 virus infection. The proportion of the population that must be vaccinated against Covid-19 to induce herd immunity is not known yet, according to the WHO. However, by and large, herd immunity is achieved when more than 70 percent of the total population develops immunity either naturally suffering from the disease or by inoculation of the vaccine.

In India, two vaccines are currently in use – Covishield, made by the Serum Institute of India Ltd in association with Oxford-Astrazeneca, UK, and Covaxinmade, made by Bharat Biotech International Ltd with the ICMR. Both the vaccines have been introduced following recommendations from a subject expert committee set up by the drug control general of India.

The Astrazeneca-Oxford vaccine has an efficacy of more than 70 percent. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has said that the interim efficacy result of Bharat Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine is 81 percent. Thus, Covaxin showcases the immense strength of Atmanirbhar Bharat to fight the odds and stand tall in the global public health community.

More than 5.86 crore doses of Covaxin were exported to 70 countries till 17 March.

To avoid rush at vaccination centres, the vaccination process is being carried out in a staggered manner. In the first phase healthcare workers and frontline workers are prioritized as a token of thanksgiving for their relentless efforts in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. India has struggled to vaccinate only 3.9 crore doses till 20 March, out of a targeted 30 crore people by 21 August. This is only 2.3 percent of India’s total population of 135 crore. Both the doses have been given only to 0.5 percent. At this rate, India will take more than 10 years to vaccinate 70 percent of the population for herd Immunity.

Similarly, in Papum Pare district also, it is a concern as per the trending rate. We have conducted 119 vaccination sessions till 19 March, excluding the ICR, and our achievement is only 4,702 out of 8,482 registered beneficiaries. The slow pace is mainly due to hesitancy or low acceptance rate because of misinformation or rumours.

Sensing the low performance, AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria, as well as union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, urged people to come out and get a jab in a bid to lower the Covid-19 mortality rate in the country.

On 1 March, the PM launched the second phase of vaccination as he took the homegrown Covaxin at the AIIMS. Now any eligible person can register themselves in the Co-WIN portal/Arogya Setu app or can visit the session site for on-spot registration. The second phase targets senior citizens above 60 years of age and above 45 years with comorbidity. It is observed that those lining up for shots are adults and a significant fraction of them is far more medically literate than the average Indian. The government of India assumes that it is their experience that will percolate and influence adoption of the vaccines among the larger population.

On 9 March, Parliament started vaccination for the members of parliament to further strengthen the vaccination drive. President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and various union cabinet ministers, including Amit Shah and Harsh Vardhan, have also received shots so far, besides many celebrities. Even a 92-year-old war veteran, wing commander Jag Mohan Nath, got the jab on 9 March at Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai.

Here are some points as stated by the government’s fact sheet:

# Covid 19 vaccination is indicated only for 18 years and above as of now.

# Since trials have not been conducted on pregnant women, it is advised that women who are pregnant or not sure of their pregnancy or lactating should not receive the vaccine.

# Persons with history of anaphylaxis to a previous dose of any vaccine should not take.

# Temporarily, persons who are acutely unwell and hospitalized due to any illness may defer for 4-8 weeks.

# There may be adverse events following vaccination like pain at the site of injection, redness, headache, weakness, itching, rash, nausea, vomiting, mild fever, etc. This is a normal phenomenon in any other vaccination also.

To contain the spread of Corona, Japan has considered Covid-19 vaccination certificates for those travelling overseas. The European Commission on Wednesday proposed a digital green certificate covering Covid-19 vaccination. The aim is to facilitate safe and free movement of citizens/tourists in the EU. China has launched a digital Covid-19 vaccination certificate for its citizens planning cross-border travels. Bahrain has already introduced certificates identifying vaccinated people.

The resurgence in Covid-19 cases has made the government all the more vigilant. Increasing Covid-19 virus cases in states like Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Punjab, etc, is an indication that the second wave has already arrived. The only way to stop the transmission is vaccination. It is said that both the vaccines are effective against the new UK variant as well. The government’s strategy is to ‘test, track and treat’, along with stepping up vaccination.

Till then it is the responsibility of everyone to join the vaccination campaign if we are to get rid of the coronavirus transmission. Even after taking the jab, continue to maintain Covid-appropriate behaviour like social distancing, handwashing and wearing mask. (Dr Komling Perme is DMO, Papum Pare)