Vaccines for Covid-19, Who will be the priority recipients in India?
As the race for completion of Clinical trial of the long-awaited Covid-19 vaccine draws closer, another important question remains unanswered, who will be the priority recipients of the vaccine and how the same shall be ascertained? How long would the vaccine take to reach the masses and which vaccine will be chosen?
At present, three pharma companies are conducting human trials in India in collaboration with their team of scientists and researchers. The Oxford – Astra Zeneca vaccine jointly developed and manufactured by the Pune based Serum Institute of India -SII has been the most promising candidate among the three. The Oxford Vaccine is about to complete its phase 2 and Phase 3 of human clinical trials and it is likely to be the 1st choice probably due to its successful trials in the UK. The vaccine is likely to get the required regulatory approvals in India before it goes ahead for mass production.
The other two vaccine candidates are Covaxine by Bharat Biotech and Zydus Cadillac. These two vaccines are about to complete Phase 1 and Phase 2 stages of Human Clinical trials. However, the Oxford Vaccine might be a clear leader in the race, but the indigenously developed vaccine candidates are not far away from the finishing line. Talks are abuzz that the made in India vaccines shall be made available in the market around the same time ( by end of 2020) when the Oxford vaccine will be launched in India if they pass the safety and regulatory standards and criteria.
A committee has been formed that will chart out the guidelines over the manufacturing and distribution of the vaccine in India, however, discussions are still on to ascertain the criteria of supply and who will be on the priority list to receive the jabs at the initial stage. It has been reported that the Govt of India has plans to procure approx. 50 lakh units of the Covid-19 vaccine that will be dedicated to the front-line workers, Doctors, lab technicians, medical professionals, the police, and personnel responsible for domestic security, army personnel, and certain other categories. Once the vaccine passes the regulatory criteria, the deciding committee shall prioritize planning the supply chain and make it available to most vulnerable. The Govt has plans to ramp up the production and make the vaccine available for the masses.
The production of the vaccine in such a massive scale is a task in itself and it will see many new milestones being achieved and many new records being broken. Such a large-scale production would require an adequate supply of skilled manpower & massive infrastructure that India claims to already have as India is among the countries that produce more than 60% of the vaccines globally. This is a major advantage for India as the majority of the Pharma giants would look forward to tying up with India for large scale production of their vaccines and India seems to be on the beneficiary side. It is being discussed that more than one dosage might be required to be administered in a short gap of few weeks, hence a huge demand has to be pre-estimated, and accordingly there should be adequate financial assistance to the manufacturing companies to produce them in advance. Currently, the domestic pharma giants are in a process of submitting a proposal to the govt of India about their capacity of production and the price for the vaccine and suggestions on what kind of support system is required from the Govt.
The scenario worldwide about the distribution
It is an impossible task to vaccinate the entire population of the globe, hence the biggest challenge after the successful completion of the trials will be to prioritize, who should be vaccinated 1st. Several points are being considered to ascertain the same.
Across the globe from west to east, the priority is to vaccinate the high-risk frontline workers and the health care professionals. Doctors and paramedical staff who are treating the Covid-19 patients should immune first. It is being argued that pregnant ladies should receive the dosage on priority as they pose a higher health risk. Other proposals include prioritizing ethnic communities and minorities who are severely affected by the pandemic like in the USA. There is a suggestion to create a strategy of a sort of ring vaccination for major clusters so that the spread of the virus can be restricted to spread to other cities and areas. It is also suggested that the elderly population will be vaccinated 1st as their immunity is weaker in comparison to others.
As complicated as it seems the vaccination theory shall vary from country to country. The distribution strategy shall be determined by the various factors and most importantly the impact of the infection in that particular country. Various resources and govt apparatus shall be put in place to put the vaccine ineffective use and stop the spread of the deadly virus. For example, The vaccine distribution strategy of India, Brazil & Mexico has to be different from New Zealand who has been able to control the pandemic.