Grieving terrain, myths, disbeliefs: How India went an extra mile to achieve 200 crore COVID immunization milestone

In 2020, the world was in a desperate state. Everyone was looking for a cure for Kovid-19. Soon, the world joined hands to find a vaccine and that was the time when all eyes were on India – Powerhouse of vaccine manufacturing for the last several decades.

Data shows that India produces 60% of the world’s vaccines and accounts for 60-80% of the UN’s annual vaccine purchases.

Indian companies such as the Pune-based Serum Institute of India and Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech have helped create and distribute vaccines to the world over the years.

“The advent of vaccines was the biggest turning point in the history of the pandemic,” Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, co-chair of the Indian Medical Association’s national task force on coronavirus, told News18.

Jayadevan said, “Although natural immunity is now known to protect against serious disease and to some extent to protect against future infections, from 2020 to early 2021, vaccines have shown a relatively safe way of achieving the same objective.” presented the method.”

In other words, the chance of a serious outcome was much less with the vaccine than with opting to become infected with COVID-19 in an attempt to gain immunity for the future. This was especially true for older adults.

Dr NK Arora, Head, National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization told News18, “It is a journey of self-reliance, self-assurance and self-pride. From a vaccine manufacturer, we have now become a vaccine developer. We have the technical capability, now the infrastructure, to develop new vaccines with state-of-the-art technology. I would like to thank all Indians for accepting the vaccine to make themselves, their loved ones and the community safe.

Anant Bhan, an assistant professor and researcher in bioethics at Mangaluru’s Yenepoya University, said it is “a matter of pride” that India has reached 200 million vaccinations today. “This shows the ability of our health system to deliver on a large scale during a challenging pandemic period.”

India’s vaccination journey

The road to India’s vaccination journey was not very easy. In fact, it began with strong criticism, said experts involved in the vaccination campaign.

“In the initial phase, an international publication had predicted that it may take more than a decade for India to vaccinate its 1.4 billion population against COVID-19,” an official of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said. “We proved them all wrong in just a matter of a year.”

India’s Drug Controller General announces approval for restricted emergency use of novel coronavirus Disease (Covid-19) vaccines manufactured by Bharat Biotech International Limited and Serum Institute of India January 3, 2021.

India launched its immunization campaign in a phased manner on January 16, 2021, where healthcare workers and older persons were given first priority.

Complementing the government from a social and ethical point of view, Jayadevan said, “India was also a model for the world, the way in which the priority was given to the distribution of vaccines to the most vulnerable, it was an example of optimum utilization of resources. ” India never made vaccines mandatory”.

He said that no one was forced or punished for not getting vaccinated. Instead, it was a voluntary process that was emphasized by clear and transparent public health messaging at all levels of the healthcare system, even at the grassroots.

As expected, there was a substantial amount of vaccine hesitation initially, apart from challenges with registration and appointments on the Co-Vin platform apart from vaccine shortages, misinformation and rumours.

As of July 2021, around 7.5 crore individuals were fully vaccinated, meaning that only 5% of the Indian population was being vaccinated.

However, vaccine hesitation was not a new challenge and prevailed globally. According to a survey released by the social network LocalCircle in October 2021, around 7.5% of adults in India were hesitant to get the Kovid-19 vaccine. But a month later, the figure rose to 12.3% and continued to rise after that.

Reminders about appointments for vaccination through WhatsApp and social media chat groups, consultations, newspaper advertisements, and to promote eminent doctors receiving COVID-19 vaccine shots as influential doctors – public by states Several measures were taken to further the confidence of the And take jabs.

To fight mistrust in our vaccines, popular politicians and public figures such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Minister Amit Shah, AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria and health expert Dr VK Paul took shots in public to boost confidence.

vaccination campaign at grassroots level

Experts claimed that being a country of 139 crore people, India stunned the world with its efficiency in delivering vaccines to the remotest parts of the country.

In fact, our grassroot level social workers including ASHA workers played a major role in implementing this and gaining the trust of the people.

From reaching out to religious leaders for support to using helicopters, boats and ropeways to transport vaccines and vaccinators, officials in hard-hit states, inclement weather put in extra efforts.

Health officials in states and union territories (UTs) such as Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir in the north and Meghalaya in the northeast took the toughest route to reach the beneficiaries.

In one example, a vaccination camp A wildlife sanctuary was established in the middle.

In some states, such as Meghalaya, state officials were at odds with the practice of local dialects.

Where there were no roads, drones were used to deliver vaccines, and bicycles were used to transport and help camels in the desert.

Government officials undertook a three-hour trek to vaccinate the population at Malana village in Himachal’s Parvati Valley, which is notorious among travelers for the production of hashish or cannabis resin that is cultivated in the region.

However, the vaccination drive was allowed by the villagers after these officials were able to convince the deity’s representatives.

In order to dispel the misconceptions and to convince the people living in remote areas of the country like Nuh, India’s remote district, the government started door-to-door vaccination campaign ‘Har Ghar Dastak’.

There have been widely popular misconceptions answered and erased after repeated attempts ranging from “vaccines cause infertility” to “this is an agenda to reduce the population” or “vaccines lead to death”. Given. team of health workersEspecially ASHA workers.

India remains a powerhouse

In a short span of two years, vaccine and pharma companies in India have developed several vaccinations against COVID-19 including mRNA vaccine from Genova, Serum Institute of India’s Kovovax & Covishield, Biological E’s Corbevax, Johnson & Johnson’s Single Shot Vaccine. or started construction. Dr Reddy’s Sputnik V and Zydus Cadila’s Zykov-D among others.

Meanwhile, India has sent over 230 crore COVID-19 vaccines to over 50 countries in the last two years as part of its Vaccine Friendship initiative, data shows.

More than 17.30 crore doses have been sold commercially, while 4.45 crore have been sent through commitments to the WHO-backed COVAX platform, according to data collated by the Observer Research Foundation’s vaccine tracker. About 1.50 crore vaccines have been sent as grants.

What will happen next?

Going forward, Bhan advised that “India should use this experience to better understand, plan and implement public health programs for its healthcare needs.”

“India should also consider where we could have done better in the COVID-19 vaccination experience and address those areas of improvement.”

Creating co-win and using technological solutions to drive the process digitally has reduced information asymmetry and democratized the process. Experts claimed that this system can also be used to monitor many other important health parameters of the country.

“Building India’s own messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine is one of the important milestones and the technology can be rapidly transformed to create a variety of other vaccines,” the government official quoted above said.

“Now is the time to consolidate our gains and learnings and build on our COVID-19 experience for other public health priorities.”

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