VENU G S, KOLLAM
India will be witnessing the biggest vaccination programme in its history with the nationwide vaccination drive to insulate people against coronavirus rolling out on January 16. Healthcare workers and others who are at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic will be vaccinated from that day onwards. Next priority group will be those above 50 and those below 50 with co-morbidities. Two vaccines have been approved by India – Covishield from the Serum Institute of India and Covaxin from Bharat Biotech. In the first phase, 30 crore Indians will be vaccinated. However, alongside this vaccination drive, there are a few grey areas. Covaxin, produced by Bharat Biotech Ltd, was approved without its efficacy being proved. As for Covaxin, there is limited data for safety and immunogenicity and there is no efficacy data. The emergency situation consent was granted to Covaxin in view of the possibility of a surge in the number of infection cases or in case there are any vaccine efficacy issues related to Covishield. Lack of efficacy data and limited data for safety and immunogenicity have created distrust in Covaxin. Hence, vaccination using such a vaccine may prove to be counterproductive. However, the Drug Controller General of India has certified that both the vaccines are safe. Both of them can be stored even in household refrigerators. Given that infection and mortality rates have declined in India, the country need not have approved an untested vaccine. There is no denying the fact that India has infrastructure to vaccinate millions. The dry runs have certainly given the authorities valuable feedback on improving the approaching roll-out. Notwithstanding the elaborate preparations for vaccination, low turnout of people and vaccine hesitancy may undermine the vaccination drive. Civil society, NGOs and influential people must put in their efforts to fight superstitions and persuade people to take the vaccines. Success of the programme is dependent on the cooperation of people.