As the world is progressing in developing effective COVID-19 vaccine, the centre has begun the process of identifying 30 crore people who will receive the first doses of coronavirus vaccine on priority. Those who will get the first dose of coronavirus vaccine include healthcare professionals, frontline workers, police, and elderly people with comorbidities. The government plans to cover over 23 per cent of the population in the first phase.
During the initial phase of vaccination, around 30 crore priority beneficiaries will receive 60 crore vaccine shots. The national expert group has drafted a list on vaccine administration for COVID-19 which has four categories. It includes 70-75 lakh healthcare professionals, 26 crore people aged over 50 years, a group of people aged below 50 but with co-morbidities and two crore frontline workers, including police, municipal workers and armed forces.
Headed by Niti Aayog member Dr VK Paul and co-chaired by health secretary Rajesh Bhushan, the team has studied allocations for early-phase vaccinations proposed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The three vaccine candidates undergoing human trials in India have reached their advanced trial stage. The Oxford-AstraZeneca candidate is in its Phase 3 clinical trial and Pune-based Serum Institute is also conducting trials in India. The Phase 3 data of these trials will be available around November-end or early December, the government said.
600 million vaccine doses for priority groups, said officials.
According to the draft plan, the experts’ committee has estimated a 70-lakh healthcare workforce from the government as well as the private sector. This includes 11 lakh MBBS doctors and 8 lakh Ayush practitioners; 15 lakh nurses, 7 lakh ANMs and 10 lakh ASHA workers. The list includes 7-8 lakh allied healthcare professionals and others, like sanitation workers, ambulance workers and hospital security. “We are in the process of identifying these beneficiaries and the final list will be ready by October-end or early November,” said officials.
As per estimation, 26 crore people are over 50 years of age and younger people with conditions like diabetes, heart diseases, chronic kidney failure, lung disease, cancer and liver diseases will also be kept under the priority group.
An official said, “Considering the overlaps in certain categories, we have estimated that a total of 550-600 million doses of the vaccine will be required initially for the priority population.”
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The public health experts say that the step is taken at the right time, and it requires a proper plan to make it public for consultation. “The government must put out the allocation framework criterion in the public domain to ensure there is transparency. There is enough time for consultation on the matter, says Anant Bhan, a researcher in global health, bioethics and health policy.
There also needs a plan to track the latest vaccine stock position, storage facility at the right temperature, geotag health centres, and see that the vaccine is distributed across India.