In India, as of 29 April 2021, 15,00,20,648 vaccine doses have been administered, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. While it is considered to be the world’s second largest vaccination drive, the reality is alarming. This vaccination drive might stand incomplete making many of the first doses pointless. Will the precious vaccine doses go waste? Experts say, they might, due to the lack of planning.
How Covid-19 vaccines work?
Covaxin and Covishield- the two Indian vaccines that have established safety and immunogenicity have been given a green signal by the government as emergency vaccines for rolling out.
Covaxin vs Covishield: The Mechanism
Covaxin is based on the theory of inactivated vaccine, meaning it is made up of dead coronavirus and hence is safe to be injected into the body whereas covishield is developed from the weakened version of common cold virus (an adenovirus) from Chimpanzees which is modified to look like the coronavirus minus the illness causing factor.
Doses and Efficacy
Both the vaccines, when injected into the body, help the body create antibodies against the coronavirus. The vaccines are given in two doses:
- Covaxin: It is given four week apart with the efficacy of 81%
- Covishield: It is given 12 weeks apart with the efficiency rate of 90%
This vaccination drive might stand incomplete making many of the first doses pointless. Will the precious vaccine doses go waste?
The 3 Phases of India’s Vaccination Programme
India launched the first phase of its vaccination drive on 16th January, 2021 confining it to the one crore healthcare workers, working in both government and private hospitals and two crores frontline workers and municipal workers.
The second phase included 27 crore people above 60 or over 45 with certain health conditions were eligible for the vaccine.
The third phase of vaccination was open to people above 45 years irrespective of comorbidities.
Why will India End up Wasting Covid-19 Vaccine Doses?
While the nation is facing an acute shortage of covid-19 vaccines, India has already wasted 4.6 million doses of vaccine in a span of three months. Moreover, from May 1, India will open up its vaccination drive to everyone above the age of 18 years.
As a result, an additional 600 million people in India will become eligible for getting the COVID-19 vaccine. This will take the count to 40 million eligible people for the second dose of the vaccine and the number will keep on increasing, adding over 65 million people by the end of May.
Analysing and predicting the situation, experts are pointing towards various reasons behind the wastage:
- Experts say that the pace has been slow and if not vaccinated within 12 weeks, everything will go back to square one and thence the wastage of vaccines.
- Even transporting vaccines to remote areas has been a task as the vials are fragile and once open have to be given within 4 hours. This issue has mostly been seen for the north-eastern states.
- Online registration portals are not managed properly and sites are crashing every now and then and hence even the registered candidates are not being able to book slots.
- India expected to have Russia’s Sputnik V Vaccine by May 1 but delay in that will cause people’s first dose go in vain.
- The uptake has been moderate because of vaccine skepticism as well as a lack of awareness among the poor or in rural areas.
- A significant number of the country has little information regarding the online registration process and how to access the vaccine free of cost and hence are not taking the vaccines only.
- Despite a promising start in January, India’s vaccination drive has been lagging. And the decision to expand it to the biggest cohort of the country’s population – 18 to 45 year-olds – comes even as several states report a shortage of doses.