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Recently, the Indian Prime Minister talked about the past vaccination campaigns in India. He mentioned that earlier India has to wait for decades to procure vaccines from foreign countries. As they need to complete their vaccination programs first before selling vaccines to countries like India.
Furthermore, indigenous manufacturing of vaccines not only started late but also fell short of the demand in India for a long time. This forced the government to continue relying on imports.
Delayed vaccination drives for Polio:
Infectious diseases posed an enormous challenge to Independent India. This along with the delayed vaccination drives took countless lives. For example,
- The Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) and Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) were licensed abroad in 1955 and 1961, respectively. But it took two decades for India to start polio vaccination drives.
- The OPV was introduced in India through the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) in urban and rural populations in 1978 and 1981, respectively.
- Prior to this EPI programme, India witnessed more than 10,000 officially recorded cases of polio annually.
- Moreover, India had to rely on imports for both OPV and IPV.
- The OPV was produced by the Pasteur Institute of India, Tamil Nadu, but the Health Ministry closed down this unit in 1974.
- The IPV could not be manufactured as it was licensed only in 2006.
Other examples of delayed vaccination drives:
This is just one example. But the majority of Indian vaccination drives followed this pattern only.
- Delayed vaccination drives for Hepatitis B
- India started mass vaccination for Hepatitis B two decades after commercial availability of the vaccine in the U.S. in 1982.
- The Hepatitis B vaccination was introduced in India’s Universal Immunisation Programme in 2002 only. Even then also, it was introduced only in 14 cities.
- Delayed vaccination drives for smallpox
- In 1962, almost a decade after North America and Europe eradicated smallpox, India launched the National Smallpox Eradication Program.
- India had an adequate stock of domestically produced low-potency liquid vaccine. But for the highly potent freeze-dried vaccine, India completely depended on the Soviet Union and the World Health Organization (WHO)
- Further, India also had to rely on the WHO for bifurcated needles required for the smallpox vaccine.
- This led to higher disease outbreak in certain regions. For example, States like Bihar and West Bengal witnessed a smallpox outbreak in 1974 which led to the death of close to 31,000 people.
India’s vaccination drive at present:
India drastically reduced the shortage of indigenously manufactured vaccines. This led to reduced dependence on other countries for India’s Covid-19 vaccination drives.
- Increased manufacturing capability: In a single day, up to 4.3 million beneficiaries received the COVID-19 vaccines and India already administered more than 25 crores of Covid-19 doses.
- India is one of the few countries across the globe with an indigenously developed vaccine.
- Indian companies not only fulfill the domestic demand for bifurcated needles but also supplying syringes for COVID-19 vaccination to countries.
- Reduced geographical limitation: At present, India’s Covid-19 vaccination drives not focused on a particular region. Instead, citizens across the country are simultaneously getting vaccinated.
- Eliminated global-domestic time gap: India started its vaccination drives at par with the developed countries. Covishield and Covaxin, manufactured in India, have been available to the people since January 16, 2021.
COVID-19 vaccination drive demonstrates that India has become Atmanirbhar in vaccination against infectious diseases. Further, the government also decided to conduct free of cost vaccination drives. This marks a complete shift in India’s future vaccination drives.
Source: The Hindu
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