To 2 billion: India’s Covid vaccination campaign a remarkable success

If there’s one thing that puts the significance of India’s 2 billion Covid bites into perspective, it’s this: social and economic life is, by all accounts, back to normal from before. the pandemic. Although the virus continues to cause disease, it has nothing to do with the deadly pathogen that was ravaging the country this time last year. Vaccines have changed the course of the pandemic – hospitalization and death rates have been low for the past eight months, even during peak infection periods. That the public health emergency has been overcome nationwide, without the rural-urban divide impeding vaccine distribution, is a laudable achievement for central and state regulatory, administrative and medical agencies, as well as for countless frontline healthcare workers. . It is true that the country has vaccine manufacturers with proven capabilities and its childhood immunization projects have helped mobilize a cadre of reliable vaccinators. Yet the Covid inoculation campaign posed unprecedented challenges – regulators had to work on compressed schedules and vaccine hesitancy tested the powers of persuasion of local officials and community workers. health. It hasn’t always been easy. The supply mechanism collapsed when the Center left the states to fend for themselves in the second wave and it took a nudge from the Supreme Court in June last year for the campaign vaccination is gaining momentum.

Last week, the Center launched a special 75-day campaign during which the third precautionary dose is administered free of charge at all government vaccination centres. It is a welcome initiative. The jury, however, is still out on the effectiveness of the current batch of vaccines against the subvariants of the Omicron strain that is responsible for most Covid infections today. Conversations in several developed countries have shifted to combating these relatively less virulent strains that leave lingering effects on patients. Last month, pharmaceutical majors Pfizer and BioNtech announced that a booster dose of their vaccine candidate had given a “significantly higher response against Omicron” in clinical trials. Experts caution, however, against the importance placed on such initiatives, given the ability of the virus to develop vaccine-resistant versions. They also point out that the regular administration of reminders is not possible. Some experts believe the answer to this predicament lies in a pan-variant vaccine capable of fighting all coronaviruses. As with most aspects of the pandemic, there is no unanimity among experts on this issue. That said, at least 10 Universal Candidates are in various stages of development. India should not be an exception in these experiences.

Last month, in recognition of India’s stance on intellectual property rights on vaccines, the WTO agreed to waive patents on Covid vaccines. Vaccine makers in India should not miss this opportunity to engage in conversations with labs where universal vaccine work is underway – other than pharma majors, these include universities and non-profits. . If necessary, the government should allow such efforts. Lessons learned from the past 1.5 years should guide the next round of vaccinations.

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