An interminable wait for a COVID vaccine finally comes to an end with the Central government approving two candidates for restricted use in emergencies across the country. Arrangements are now on to launch the immunisation programme from January 16.
As planned, the vaccine would be administered to healthcare workers in the first phase and later to staff of various government departments, to people aged above 50, and to people with comorbid health conditions.
The State government has been making arrangements by enhancing its vaccine storage and supply chain capacities as it expects to receive one crore doses from the Centre.
Hesitancy in the air
Apprehensions linger over the efficacy of the approved vaccines which are still under clinical trials.
While getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is not made mandatory, the governments are focusing on immunising the entire population in multiple phases.
Covaxin and Covishield, the vaccines approved by the Drugs Controller General of India, are still in Phase-III, conducting clinical trials on humans.
As of the first week of January, Covaxin was administered to over 22,000 participants, the largest sample size and the DCGI stated that the vaccine is safe as per available data.
In case of Covishield, the target sample size was only 1,600, and trials are under way and the DCGI approved the vaccine considering the data generated on 23,745 participants from outside the country.
The healthcare workers including doctors and paramedical staff and others who were the ones who fought the pandemic from the frontlines will also be going to prove the efficacy of the vaccines by getting them before the rest of the population.
"We will extend all our support to the government in the immunisation drive and also appeal to our members to be on the forefront in helping the government roll out the vaccine. We are also focusing on clearing the misconceptions on vaccines by creating awareness among the public," IMA State secretary Dr. G. Nanda Kishore said.
‘Onus on govt.’
Side effects to a vaccine is a common phenomenon and the sample size of a particular indigenous vaccine which was approved is reasonable, Dr. Nanda Kishore said.
Doctors are advising the public to go for the vaccination and many doctors have also been participants in the vaccine trials. People might first hesitate to get vaccinated but as more number of people get it, doubts over its efficacy would be cleared, he added.
"Vaccine hesitancy is expected in any immunisation programme and the onus is on the government to ensure the public is made aware of the need for getting vaccinated. In adverse cases, people face temporary issues like anaphylaxis and facial palsy as witnessed in other countries where the vaccine was tested, besides common reactions like fever, pain and others. Such cases should be handled effectively to reduce hesitancy among the public," said a doctor on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, the State government is making foolproof arrangements for the vaccination drive by enhancing its capacities to store and distribute the vaccine across all locations in the State.
Officials said that with the current infrastructure of cold chain supply, over 10 crore doses of vaccines can be handled in the coming eight months in the State.