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Synopsis: Need to address the issues that issues that are hampering India’s Accelerate Vaccination drive on a priority basis.
- Currently, India is vaccinating more than three million people per day and has administered more than 140 million doses of the vaccine as of April 25, 2021.
- However, only about 22.3 million (1.63% of India’s population), have been fully vaccinated, against a requirement of 70%-75% for achieving herd immunity. Whereas the Israel has vaccinated 55% of its population.
- India needs to address the issues that is hampering its efforts to push for accelerated vaccination drive.
Steps Taken to Accelerate India’s Vaccination drive?
- First, the eligible population for getting vaccinated has been expanded. Earlier Population above 45 years were prioritised, but now People above the age of 18 years were also allowed.
- Second, decision has been taken to make available vaccines in the open market and vaccines approved in other countries.
What are the issues that are hampering India’s accelerated vaccination drive?
Though many policy decisions were taken to augment vaccination drive, there are certain challenges that need to be addressed on priority basis,
- First, issue of delay over availability of imported vaccines due to policy restrictions.
- India’s drug regulatory authority relaxed Imports restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines. Also, it approved the restricted use of vaccines, which are already approved for restricted use by US in emergency situations.
- Consequently, newer generation mRNA vaccines and other vaccines effective against the variants and mutant strains are made available in India.
- However, full-fledged roll-out of these vaccines will be delayed. There is a mandatory requirement for trials and safety assessments of the first 100 recipients of these vaccines.
- Second, issue of ethics in making vaccines available for priority populations is a hurdle in universal vaccination. For instance,
- One, Priority was assigned to health care and other front-line health workers. Because it satisfied the doctrine of utilitarianism (Maximum benefit for maximum number of people).
- Two, Prioritising population above 60 plus and with co-morbidities was done to protect the most vulnerable.
- Three, prioritising population above 18 years was done based on health economics point of view. Because the Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) saved through vaccination of the 18-plus age-group would be the highest.
- However, students in the 16-plus age-group were deprived of vaccination.
- Third, the issue of vaccine pricing. Lack of access to vaccines for the population under 18 to 44-year age-bracket under the ‘Government of India channel’ may discourage the socially and economically disadvantaged people. For example, labourers and daily wage workers.
What needs to be done?
- One, utilising the data of vaccine efficacy of foreign vaccines that has been tested on Indian origin population can cut short the mandatory trial necessities in India.
- Two, allowing the population above 16 plus age group for getting vaccinated as approved by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Third, State governments can provide the vaccine to Socially disadvantaged age-group free of cost. For example, Kerala have already committed to providing vaccines free of charge to all eligible people
- Fourth, the differential pricing regime announced by the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech for supply of their vaccines to the central government and State governments needs to be reconsidered.
Source: The Hindu