Thumbnail- Myths & Facts on India’s Vaccination Process
In this digital era where everyone has the right to post their views, it becomes really difficult to identify what’s right and what’s wrong. Some people do spread misinformation, be it knowingly or by trusting word of mouth. Social media platforms play a big role in amplifying distorted statements, half truths and blatant lies. These days several myths on India’s vaccination program are doing the rounds. In this video we will look at some of the myths and facts which have been addressed by Dr Vinod Paul who is Member of Health in NiTi Aayog and Chair of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19. So, let’s get started
Myth: Centre is not doing enough to buy vaccines from abroad
Fact is that the Central Government has remained engaged continuously with all the major international vaccine manufacturers right from the first outbreak of COVID in India. Multiple rounds of discussions have happened with Pfizer, J&J & Moderna. Government offered all assistance to have them supply or manufacture their vaccines in India.
However, we need to understand that vaccines are in limited supply globally, and companies have their own priorities, game-plans & compulsions in allocating finite stocks. Buying vaccines internationally is not similar to buying ‘off the shelf’ items. As soon as Pfizer indicated vaccine availability, the Central Government and the company are working together for the earliest possible import of the vaccine. Sputnik vaccine trials have already got accelerated and with timely approval, Russia has already sent two tranches of vaccines & accomplished tech-transfer to our companies that would start manufacturing very soon.
Myth: Centre has not approved vaccines available globally
Fact is that the Central Government has proactively eased entry of vaccines approved by US FDA, EMA, UK’s MHRA and Japan’s PMDA, and WHO’s Emergency Use Listing into India in April. These vaccines will not need to undergo prior bridging trials. The provision has now been further amended to waive off the trial requirement altogether for the well-established vaccines manufactured in other countries. No application of any foreign manufacturer for approval is pending with the drugs controller.
Centre is not doing enough to ramp up domestic production of vaccines
Fact is that the Central Government is playing the role of an effective facilitator to enable more companies to produce vaccines from the early 2020. There is only 1 Indian company (Bharat Biotech) which has the IP. Government has ensured that 3 other companies/plants will start production of Covaxin apart from enhancing Bharat Biotech’s own plants, which have increased from 1 to 4. Covaxin production by Bharat Biotech is being increased from under 1 Crore per month to 10 Crore month by October 2021. Additionally, the three Public Sector Undertaking or PSUs will together aim to produce upto 4.0 Cr doses by December.
With constant encouragement of the Government, Serum Institute is also ramping up Covishield production of 6.5 crore doses per month to 11.0 crore doses per month. In partnership with Russia, Sputnik will be manufactured by 6 companies coordinated by Dr Reddy’s.
Union Government is supporting efforts of Zydus Cadila, BioE as well Gennova for their respective indigenous vaccines through liberal funding under Covid Suraksha scheme as also the technical support at national laboratories. Development of Bharat Biotech’s single dose intranasal vaccine is proceeding well with GoI funding, and it could be a game-changer for the world. The estimate of production of over 200 crore doses by our vaccine industry by the end of 2021 is the result of such efforts and unstinted support and partnership.
Centre should invoke compulsory licensing
Fact is that compulsory licensing is not a very attractive option. It is not a ‘formula’ that matters, but active partnership, training of human resources, sourcing of raw materials and highest levels of biosafety labs required matters. Tech transfer is the key and that remains in the hands of the company that has carried out R&D. India has already gone one step ahead of Compulsory Licensing and is ensuring active partnership between Bharat Biotech & 3 other entities to enhance production of Covaxin. Similar mechanism is being followed for Sputnik.
Centre has abdicated its responsibility to the states
Fact is that Central Government is doing all the heavy-lifting. Be it by funding vaccine manufacturers to give them quick approvals for ramping up production or by bringing foreign vaccines to India, central government is taking care of all these. The vaccine procured by the Centre is supplied wholly to the states for free administration to people. All this is very much in the knowledge of the states. GoI has merely enabled states to try procuring vaccines on their own, on their explicit requests. The states very well knew the production capacity in India and what difficulties are there in procuring vaccines directly from abroad. In fact, GoI ran the entire vaccine program from January to April & it was quite well-administered compared to the situation in May. But states, who had not even achieved good coverage of healthcare workers and frontline workers in 3 months wanted to open up the process of vaccination and wanted more decentralisation. The fact that global tenders have not given any results only reaffirms what we have been telling the states from day one: that vaccines are in short supply in the world and it is not easy to procure them at short notice.
Centre is not giving enough vaccines to the states
Fact is that the centre is allocating enough vaccines to the states in a transparent manner as per agreed guidelines. Along with this, states are also being informed in advance of the vaccine availability. Vaccine availability is going to increase in the near future. In the non-GoI channel, states are getting 25% of the doses and private hospitals are getting 25% doses. However the hiccups and issues faced by the people in the administration of these 25% doses by the states leave a lot to be desired.
Centre is not taking any step to vaccinate children
Fact is that as of now, no country in the world is giving vaccines to children. Also, WHO has given no recommendation on vaccinating children. There have been studies about the safety of vaccines in children, which have been encouraging. In India, vaccine trials on children are also going to begin soon.
Dr. Vinod Paul said that vaccinating children should not be decided on the basis of panic in WhatsApp groups and because some politicians want to play politics. It has to be a decision taken by our scientists after adequate data is available based on trials.
So, some of the myths have been busted in this video. There are several myths like these spreading fast. What you can do from your end is to cross check it from authentic sources before forwarding it to someone. That’s all for today, thanks for watching. Take care and stay away from fake news.