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Coronavirus vaccine: Time to ramp up infrastructure again

By Devsagar Singh

Coronavirus vaccine: Time to ramp up infrastructure again

New Delhi, Dec 4:It is re-assuring to note that a vaccine for coronavirus is coming in the country by December-end, January beginning. Hyderabad- based Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Oxford-Astrageneca vaccine being manufactured by Serum Institute of India at Pune are the two front runners at the moment. Scientists around the world deserve appreciation for doing their job in a record time. Now, it is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that the vaccine is made available to people.

The biggest challenge is the infrastructure, like cold storage and the availability of trained personnel to administer the vaccine. To reach the vaccines to remote areas without compromising their quality would be a stupendous task. Surely, state governments are aware of the situation. But there must be central monitoring to ensure that the vaccines reach safely  to  the end-user.

Like the Government utilized the lockdown period to ramp up healthcare facilities around the country to tackle coronavirus cases, it must be now busy creating an infrastructure for mass vaccination. Not much is known, however, about the scale of preparation since it is the states who have to do the job largely. Healthcare, unfortunately, remains lower down in the list of priorities of state governments. This is the reason why central oversight is necessary. If vaccine protocol is not adhered to, the whole exercise may become meaningless.

It now transpires that it may not be necessary to vaccinate the entire population. According to ICMR, vaccination would be done to enough population size to break the chain of transmission of the virus. This may be yet another ticklish issue —to determine the size of the population which needs to be vaccinated. Some experts believe that those who got infected have already developed immunity and need not be vaccinated. Some serosurveys have shown that nearly one-third of Delhi and Pune may have developed an immunity. It will be for the health authorities to determine who to vaccinate.

Large swathes of the population in rural areas have been unaffected by the virus. It is likely that they may not be prioritized for the vaccine next year. This could be a big relief to the Government. However, exceptions could be made in the case of school children. Parents have refused to send children to schools till they are vaccinated against the virus.

Grey areas will still remain. For example, it is unclear how long the immunity will last after the vaccine is administered. It will be a work in progress for quite some time. Maybe it will take years to solve several issues on the virus.

Humanity will heave a big sigh of relief once the vaccine comes. Life has become topsy-turvy. It may take time to get back to normal again. It has a hidden benefit, though. People have become hygiene-conscious. Wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and frequent hand washing has become part of life. Seasonal ailments like cough and cold, dengue, malaria, etc have come down because of extra precautions by people. One hopes some of these would remain even after the vaccine comes.

Coronavirus vaccine: Time/Coronavirus vaccine: Time/Coronavirus vaccine: Time

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