December 30, 2020
Ranking among the top queries concerning the COVID-19 pandemic that has currently grappled the world is the million-dollar question, ‘When would we see a vaccine?’ second only to the ‘When will coronavirus go away?’
While no vaccine has been approved for use as yet in the country, several trials are going on and the latest is that officials of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation are likely to meet this week to take a call on Serum Institute of India’s application for the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine, Covishield.
While Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan has said that India may get its first COVID-19 vaccine shot in January 2021, it begs us the question – who would be the beneficiaries of this vaccine(s) first as and when it is approved for use?
HEALTHCARE WORKERS & SENIOR CITIZENS TO GET PRIORITY
Noting that vaccine distribution has to be prioritised, the Health Minister said that the order would be as follows – first, the healthcare workers followed by the senior citizens above 65 years of age, those above 50 years up until 65 and bringing up the rear would be those below 50 and with other diseases.
A two-day dry run aka trail run in layperson terms began in four states on Monday – Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat and Punjab. The idea is to check roll-out procedures, preparedness, cold storage, transportation arrangement and the management of possible adverse events before the vaccine companies get a license to launch their products in the country.
POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS
While it is difficult to say in the Indian context what could be the potential side effects, Dr Taneisha Wilson who took it at Rhode Island, US, said she was hit with the worst headache of her life two hours after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
Some others who received the Moderna vaccine said that they had a reaction strong enough to prevent them from going about their daily routine. A few others in Iowa, US, reported uncontrolled shivering, sore arms and “brain fog”.
There were new variants of the virus that was detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa, forcing sceptics to wonder if the vaccines that are currently in development would work against them. However, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, Prof K Vijay Raghavan dispelled the fears and said that there is no evidence that the current vaccines will fail to protect against the newly developed COVID-19 variants.
Further, it was announced that a consortium of 10 government labs had been established across the country to do genome sequencing, and is being referred to as “INSACOG”. The labs belong to the Indian Council of Medical Research, BioTech India, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Health Ministry.
VACCINES FIND THEIR WAY INTO ELECTIONS
While we are yet to get a vaccine that has been approved, however, it has already found its way into election manifestos and speeches. The BJP in its election manifesto for Bihar promised free COVID-19 vaccine to the state if the NDA wins the election. State governments of Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala also announced free vaccination.