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COVID-19 vaccine shot for all Indians unrealistic; better health services, masks crucial

COVID-19 vaccine shot for all Indians unrealistic; better health services, masks crucial

COVID-19 vaccine shot for all Indians unrealistic; better health services, masks crucial

Is it necessary that India’s entire population needs to be vaccinated against COVID-19?

On Tuesday, Rajesh Bhushan, Union health secretary said that the Central government never spoke about vaccinating the entire country against the coronavirus

Balram Bhargava the head of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), was reported to have said, “Our purpose is to break the chain of virus transmission. If we are able to vaccinate a critical mass of people and break the transmission, we might not have to vaccinate the entire population.”

The presumption seems to be that most, if not all the people in the country, will eventually be administered a vaccine”in a gargantuan but phase-wise exercise.

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COVID-19 vaccine shot for all Indians unrealistic; better health services, masks crucial

COVID-19 vaccine shot for all Indians unrealistic; better health services, masks crucial

Experts, however, emphasised the distinction between vaccine shots being administered to individuals with the aim of specifically protecting them against COVID-19, and a public immunisation programme designed to achieve population-level immunity. Based on their perspectives, here is an overview of the role that vaccines could play in immunising India’s population against the novel coronavirus.

Is vaccinating the whole population feasible?

In general, a vaccine coverage rate between 65 percent and 70 percent would be enough to reach population immunity, thereby breaking the chain of transmission, experts from the World Health Organisation have estimated.

However, in India, reaching out to 65-70 percent of a population of about 1.3 billion is also an enormous challenge. Speaking to Firstpost, T Jacob John, a virologist and former professor at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, said, “Nobody expects that the entire population of the country can be vaccinated against COVID-19. However, merely saying that everyone may not be vaccinated holds little meaning. If the government had specifically mentioned the sections of society that will be given the vaccine shots, then that would have been more meaningful.”

John further said, “A vaccine can be used for a public health purpose” which is to achieve immunity against the disease among the population at large; or it can have a healthcare application” which means protecting the individuals who get the dose. The government has to take a decision on whether it will administer the vaccine to selected individuals, or whether it will try to control the infection in the community by means of a vaccination programme.”

That brings us to the issue of what the government has announced with respect to vaccination against the novel coronavirus. Union health minister Harsh Vardhan has announced that India hopes to receive by July 2021 up to 500 million doses of the vaccines against COVID-19, which can be used to inoculate about 250 million people. While this will be a massive task, one reason for optimism that has been expressed by many is that India has considerable experience with distributing vaccines through the universal immunisation programme.

What do you think?

Written by tea

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