Due to the second wave of the coronavirus, the number of infected patients in India skyrocketed in the past few days. As of Tuesday, April 27, 2021, for six consecutive days, India touched a grim milestone of 300000 detected individuals per day. India’s healthcare system is sinking day by day to a deadly catastrophe. The government has been criticized throughout the world due to its inefficiency in the handling of the pandemic. The only way out is mass vaccination. The lives lost cannot return but the lives struggling to survive can be saved through vaccination.
How is the vaccination going?
As of April 21, more than 10.9 crore people had received one dose, and over 1.7 crore people were fully vaccinated after receiving two doses. But experts claim India will face a hard time fulfilling its promise of vaccinating 25 crores by July.
In early April, India declared itself, “the fastest country in the world” to give more than 10 crore vaccines. It achieved the feat in 85 days, whereas the United States took 89 days and China 102 days. But this means nothing when we take the huge population in account.
As of April 28, a total of 14.5 crore people have been vaccinated, which results in 11 people per 100 (at least one 1-dose, may not be fully vaccinated). To put it into perspective, when considering vaccination per 100 people, Brazil has 19 people, the Dominican Republic has 16 people, Guyana has 16 people and Cambodia has 13 people vaccinated.
India launched its vaccination drive on 16 January. But this was restricted to the most essential font, the healthcare workers and frontline staff. Now from May 1, those above 18 years will be the latest group to become eligible. The registration process has already been started. But the government officials are facing backlash after a failure to manage the registration site properly. The registration site crashed.
But shortages have since put a question mark on the vaccine drive in many states. So, rough math shows if India has to vaccinate at least 50 percent of its population (~ 140/2 ~ 70 crores), it will take almost a year. But with a worsening situation of deaths and infections, India’s government has to step up.
What are the vaccines available in India?
India is going to administer mainly three vaccines. In preliminary days, Covaxin and Covishield and later it is also trying to get a hold of Sputnik V.
Covaxin originates from an inactivated and weakened Coronavirus. It is made by Bharat Biotech. Bharat Biotech is a 24-year-old vaccine maker which made 16 other vaccines and exported them to 123 countries. When vaccinated, immune cells can still recognize the dead virus, prompting the immune system to make antibodies against the coronavirus. Generally, the two doses are given four weeks apart. The vaccine can be stored at 2 degrees C to 8 degrees C. The vaccine has an efficacy of 81%. Bharat Biotech demands it has a stock of 2 crore doses of Covaxin and, is aiming to make 70 crore doses manufactured by its four facilities in two cities by the end of the year.
At the time of the approval, the study about the company could not provide the data verifying the rigorous trials which are common for any vaccine. As a result, a section of medical professionals and scientists showed their concern about mass vaccination using Covaxin. Both the manufacturer of the drug, Bharat Biotech, and drug regulator defended Covaxin, claiming it was “safe and provides a robust immune response”.
As a result, it is safe to take the vaccine, as of now.
The World’s largest vaccine manufacturer, Serum Institute of India is making the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines. It says it is producing more than 6 crore doses a month.
The jab is administered in two doses given between 4 and 12 weeks apart. It is safely stored at temperatures of 2 degrees C to 8 degrees C and can easily be delivered in existing health care settings such as doctors’ surgeries. Many other countries are using the same vaccine for mass vaccination.
Russia’s Sputnik V is found to be safe and works similarly to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Sputnik V gives around 92% protection against the COVID, according to trial results published in The Lancet. India had recently approved Sputnik V.
The vaccine Sputnik V, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, initially created controversy after being rolled out before all the trial data came into daylight. Now, it is approved worldwide though. It can be stored at temperatures of between 2 degrees to 8 degrees C (where a standard refrigerator is roughly 3-5 degrees C) making it easier to transport and store.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is marketing the vaccine, has signed deals to produce more than 75 crore doses of Sputnik V in India with six domestic Indian makers, according to reports. Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical giant Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories will import 12.5 crore doses of Sputnik V to India, which is the first batch.
Now, India will mostly rely on two previously approved vaccines, Covaxin and Covishield. And Indians have to take the vaccines to survive this deadly pandemic.