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Vaccination: Key to unlocking economy and normalcy

India administered over 82.7 lakh vaccine doses, the highest in a single day on Monday as the revised guidelines for COVID-19 vaccination came into effect, the Union Health Ministry said.

India’s cumulative COVID-19 vaccination coverage was recorded at over 28.33 crores since January 16, according to the data from the CoWIN portal.

Dr V. K. Paul, Member(Health), NITI Aayog speaking to DD News said that the day one vaccination figures demonstrate India’s ability to carry out vaccination on a large scale for days and weeks together. “All this was possible because of planning and coordination between the Central and state government and taking up the task work in mission mode,” added Dr Paul.

Dr. Paul reminded that a third wave can be stopped if COVID Appropriate Behaviour is followed and the majority of people get vaccinated. “Why will there be a third wave if we follow COVID Appropriate Behaviour and get ourselves vaccinated? There are many countries where even second wave has not arrived; if we follow COVID appropriate behaviour, this period will pass.”

What is the key to go back to normalcy? 

The NITI Aayog Member underscored the importance of fast vaccination in order to enable India to open its economy and resume normal work. “We need to do our daily work, maintain our social life, open schools, businesses, take care of our economy; we will be able to do all this only when we are able to vaccinate at a fast pace”.

How can India overcome vaccine hesitancy? 

Dr Paul said that it is a big mistake to think that our vaccines are unsafe. “All vaccines of the world have been approved under Emergency Use Authorization, just like our vaccines. People from various sections of society have taken these. “The second wave has now receded and it is the best time to take the COVID19 vaccine” he added. 

Dr Paul also pointed out how our decision to vaccinate our health workers on priority has protected them during the second wave. “Very few health care workers got infected, otherwise, our hospitals themselves would have collapsed during the second wave, so please be assured that people are being saved from infection due to the vaccine.”

The NTAGI Chairperson emphasised the significance of people’s participation and public awareness in order to avoid rumours and misconceptions against vaccination. “Jan Bhagidari and Jan Jagran are very essential to eradicate the fear of vaccination. Ultimately it is in the hands of the public to come forward and get vaccinated”. 

He also mentioned that preparations have been made for spreading awareness about vaccination and ASHA workers and frontline workers have already started working from grass root levels to fight vaccine hesitancy.

What is the current capacity of vaccine administration in India? 

Chairperson, National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation in India (NTAGI), Dr N. K. Arora, said that the dosage achieved today is a big achievement. “What we did today is a big achievement. Our aim is to vaccinate at least one crore people every day. Our capacity is such that we will easily be able to administer 1.25 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine every day.”

Dr Arora said that this target is especially achievable in the wake of good support from the private sector and this was proved on the very first day when revised guidelines came into force. 

Speaking about how India has been successful in the past as well, Dr Arora said: “This is not unprecedented. In one week, we give polio vaccines to around 17 crore children. So, when India decides to do something, we are able to achieve it.” India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive is becoming a prime example of how public and private sectors can join together to better address and solve problems faced by the nation, he added.

The Chairperson assured that there won’t be any issue regarding the availability of vaccine. “We will have around 20–22 crore doses next month.” Dr Arora also assured that the health infrastructure is well spread out to ensure that the vaccination drive reaches every corner of the country including hilly, tribal and very sparsely populated areas.

Is there a need to revisit the time interval of dosage of the COVISHIELD vaccine?

Responding to a query on the dosage interval of COVISHIELD vaccines, the Chairperson said that no need is felt at the moment to change the interval. “We are collecting data under the National Vaccine Tracking System — and doing real-time evaluation regarding effectiveness of vaccines, dose interval, region-wise impact, variants; at present, no need is felt for changing dose interval of COVISHIELD. The basic principle is that our people should get the maximum benefit from every dose of the vaccine. We find that the current dosages are proving to be beneficial.” He added that at the same time, nothing is written in stone.

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