COVID vaccine update today. Panic around Coronavirus is refusing to die down. The Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has urged the Centre to stop all flights from the UK immediately. The reason being a new ‘super-spreader’ mutation of the novel coronavirus disease.
In the midst of this panic, the Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan has asked people to calm down. He further announced that the first shot of the COVID vaccine will be available in any week of January. Excitement over an effective COVID vaccine is at an all-time high. People are tired of being locked up in fear and want life back to normal. There are many contenders in the race already. India’s realistic hopes hinge on two to three of these vaccines.
Nonetheless, the COVID vaccine should be safe, effective, and immunogenic.
Which are these contenders?
Vaccine by Oxford-AstraZeneca called Covishield
If all goes as planned, The Serum Institute of India will start rolling out the COVID vaccine in January. The greatest advantage of this vaccine is that it is being produced locally. Moreover, it can be stored at normal fridge temperatures. Hence the last mile distribution and storage will not be a challenge. The vaccine is quite fairly priced as compared to its foreign counterparts by Pfizer and Moderna. Pfizer and Moderna do not have an Indian partner either yet.
Vaccine by Bharat Biotech and ICMR called Covaxin
This will be an indigenously developed vaccine. Its third phase trials starting December 21 are initiated from Haryana. It is being developed from an inactive strain of the virus.
Vaccine by Gujarat based, Zydus Cadila
This too has received approvals to start phase 3 trials by Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI).
Russian vaccine Sputnik-V being developed by Dr. Reddy’s Lab
The second and third phase of trials for this vaccine are yet to begin in India. It has a claimed efficacy rate of 92%, very near to Pfizer’s and Moderna’s claims.
Going by logistical requirements, Covishield and Covaxin will be the best suited for mass roll-out in India. They can be stored at normal fridge temperatures, just like the polio vaccine. So the storage and last-mile delivery would not be a challenge.
Who gets the vaccine first in India?
The Health Ministry has formed a panel called National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration or NEGVAC for vaccine management across the country. NEGVAC will identify priority groups among states, and which states to receive how many doses.
- People above 50 years of age ( about 265 million in India)
- People suffering from co-morbidities like diabetes, hypertension, etc.
- Healthcare (10 million in number) and frontline workers (20 million in number)
Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Bihar are the top five states with the highest percentage of people in the 50+ age group. These states will be given higher percentage of the initial vaccine doses procured by the government. Now we need to keep our fingers crossed that there is no politics or black-marketing which gets in between the distribution of this life saving vaccine. The distribution should remain as smooth as the development process was for India.
If the vaccine comes in January as envisaged, 300 million people will be able to get vaccinated by July 2021, as per Union Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri. This means only the prioritized lot of population will be vaccinated by mid of next year. The battle against the virus is long. The time to relax is not near yet. But as they say, this too shall pass.