With Prime Minister Narendra Modi rolling out the vaccination drive against the pandemic that has caused 1,52,093 deaths and upended millions of lives in the country, experts — who have been spending hours ironing out creases ahead of the launch of the inoculation campaign — said they were ecstatic and relieved to execute the herculean task much ahead of time.
Dr Randeep Guleria, Director of AIIMS and a member of the Covid task force was among the first ones to take a shot of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin at AIIMS on Saturday. Calling the vaccination programme “a game changer”, he said, “Before this, we did not have any definite treatment strategy. We were giving a lot of drugs but we didn’t have a good antiviral drug. This is one strategy which is going towards finding an end to the pandemic. The vaccination programme is something which has happened early. When the discussions were going on, people were even thinking of March for getting the vaccine. People have worked extra hard, both in terms of the manufacturers, trials and rolling out the whole process because there was a huge upscaling that was required.”
In August, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) had constituted the National Expert Group on Vaccine administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC) to provide vaccine guidance and mechanism for the delivery.
Dr Samiran Panda, Indian Council of Medical Research, Scientist and Head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases Division and a member of NEGVAC, told The Sunday Express “It’s almost like expecting a baby and then seeing the baby being born, but then all the worries are not yet over because the newborn now requires a different kind of care and protection. The vaccine has come into being within 10-11 months of knowing the whole genome sequence of the virus. It is a phenomenal achievement for India. It’s not over yet. Now is the time for us to remain more cautious and see how things go further.”
Talking about the road ahead, the experts suggested people to continue following Covid-appropriate behaviour. “As we move ahead, we will need more vaccines in terms of the number of doses. Even in the first phase, we need 60 crore doses and that’s a huge number. We will need to work on getting more vaccine doses,” said Dr Guleria.