New Delhi: Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said Sunday that the priority for Covid-19 vaccination in India will be decided through two parameters — high risk of exposure to the infection, such as in medical professionals, and the risk of developing severe disease, such as in people with comorbidities.
In the fifth episode of his ‘Sunday Samvaad’, Vardhan responded to questions raised on social media, and discussed the ways in which India is planning to roll out Covid vaccines, when they are cleared for public use.
He said the government is anticipating that the vaccine supply will be limited in the beginning. Therefore, “the prioritisation of groups for Covid-19 vaccine shall be based on two key considerations — occupational hazard and risk of exposure to infection, and the risk of developing severe disease and increased mortality”, he said.
“In a huge country like India, it is critical to prioritise vaccine delivery based on various factors such as risk of exposure, comorbidity among various population groups, the mortality rate among Covid cases, and several others,” the minister explained.
However, he added that “India is looking at the availability of several types of vaccines, of which some may be suitable for a particular age group while others may not be”.
India deliberating ‘emergency use authorisation’
The issue of ‘emergency use authorisation’ (EUA) of Covid vaccines is “being deliberated”, Harsh Vardhan said.
Under EUA, the drug regulator allows the use of drugs and vaccines for handling public health emergencies.
“Adequate safety and efficacy data is required for EUA vaccine approval for ensuring patient safety. Further course of action will depend on the data generated,” the minister said.
“The Covid-19 vaccines currently in the trial stage in India are two-dose and three-dose vaccines. The vaccine by Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech requires two doses while the Cadila Healthcare vaccine requires three doses. For other vaccines in preclinical stages, the dosage is being tested,” he added.
Public-private partnership for vaccine manufacturing
Harsh Vardhan emphasised the need to consider other new Covid vaccine candidates too.
“Considering the large population size of India, one vaccine or vaccine manufacturer will not be able to fulfil the requirements of vaccinating the whole country,” he pointed out.
That’s why, he said, India is open to “assessing the feasibility of introducing several Covid-19 vaccines in the country as per their availability for the Indian population”.
The minister warned that public-private partnerships should not be seen through a “negative lens”.
“The present situation demands multiple vaccine partners to ensure maximum vaccination coverage to the Indian population, and the use of a single vaccine from a certain company should not be seen through a negative lens,” he said.
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