New Delhi [India], December 31 (ANI): The government is aggressively working on the Covid-19 mass vaccination program and there will be no delay in the inoculation process, Dr Randeep Guleria, director All India Institute of Medical Sciences said on Wednesday. He also said that priority groups have been identified and the vaccine will be free for healthcare workers, frontline workers, and the elderly.
In an interview to ANI, Dr Guleria explained the mechanism and the twin aims of the vaccination drive- "to decrease mortality as we do not want more people to die because of COVID-19, second is to break the chain of vaccination in which we will aim having a sufficient number of people vaccinated, therefore the cases come down automatically."
"With these aims, we have to see how many people we have to vaccinate. We want to vaccinate our higher population--those having co-morbidity and the elderly because they have a higher chance of having a severe Covid-19 infection.
"We know that there are people who have got the infection and already have the immunity and if we give the vaccine to them then another significant number of people get immunity, In that way, we may have reached so-called 'herd immunity' and we may not need to vaccinate larger number of the entire population because we broke the chance of transmission," he added.
Dr Guleria said everything will depend upon how coronavirus behaves in 2021.
"Once the virus is not able to spread and gradually dies down, the number of cases will become very very few. It will depend upon how the virus behaves in the next year and if we find the number of cases becomes very few and it is like ordinary influenza cases that we see every year, we may not have to vaccinate the entire population," he said.
"By the later half of 2021, we will have more than one vaccine which will be available and it will allow us to vaccinate large part of the population and thereby protect them in a much better way," he added.
Dr Guleria, who is a member of the national task force on Covid-19 management said that the government has been working aggressively in the last few months to develop a very good mechanism for the mass vaccination drive.
"The government is working to maintain the cold chain, having temperature monitors at the cold storage sites where vaccine will be stored, training staff, making sure enough syringe needles are available for vaccinating people.
"The digital platform Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network (Co-WIN) is being used to monitor everything so that everything is done properly. Since the government is rolling this out, they will make sure that the data using Aadhar cards and other identities will be used to give the vaccine to the person who needs to be vaccinated as per the data available to the government. The chances of misuse are very limited," he said.
He said that as of now, for the priority groups which are health care workers, frontline workers and the higher risk groups (elderly), "vaccines will be provided by the government and there is no charge for this. It will be given to everyone, even in the government or the private sector as far as the priority is concerned."
The AIIMS director pointed out that the government has created a group to look at the Covid-19 vaccination drive.
"The group has done detailed discussion and based on that the priority groups have already been set-up. The work on who should to be vaccinated has been done. Their data is being uploaded on the government website," he said.
Dr Guleria further said that he does not think the vaccination drive is delayed in India.
"I don't think we are delaying the vaccination process, we are making sure that we have a safe and effective vaccine that can be rolled out for the entire country. The most important thing for us is that the vaccine should satisfy the regulators and it is safe and effective for our population. Therefore we cannot say that we just start giving vaccination because it has been approved in some other countries, where it is tried on very different populations," he said.
"There can be ethnic differences from one group to another, therefore we should not rush into doing something when we are not sure that it is not safe. So, once the data is good enough, we should roll it out on a big scale," he added.
Dr Guleria noted that AIIMS has a large number of healthcare workers and they are qualified for vaccination.
"AIIMS is looking for facilities to provide vaccination to its staff and also involved in testing the efficacy of various vaccines," he added. (ANI)