India is ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccine programme from January 13, ten days after the emergency use authorisation by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI). This is on the basis of the dry runs that were conducted across the country on January 2.
COVID-19 cases in India have crossed the 1 crore mark, with more than 1.5 lakh registered deaths. With DCGI’s emergency restricted approval, two vaccines - Serum Institute of India’s (SII) Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, will be administered to people. This raises India’s hopes of controlling a health crisis which has caused a strain on the country’s healthcare and one of the biggest economic contractions in history.
With the country about to launch one of the world’s largest inoculation drives, here is all you need to know about the vaccines:
Which vaccines have been approved?
The DCGI has given the green signal to Oxford-Astrazeneca’s and Serum Institute of India's (SII) Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin. Covishield is the Indian version of the AZD1222 vaccine developed by Oxford University.
SII has already stockpiled 80 million doses of the vaccine. The company plans to price its vaccine at Rs 200 per dose for the Indian government and Rs 1,000 for the private market. Covaxin’s price will depend on volumes.
While Covishield has been found to have 70 % efficacy, phase 3 trials of Covaxin are not yet over.
The vaccines will be delivered in two doses, to be administered 28 days apart. While people can decide which vaccine to take, health experts have advised that recipients should stick to the same vaccine for each dose.
Who will get vaccinated first?
The government has identified priority groups to whom the vaccine will be administered first. The first group will consist of 1 crore healthcare workers and 3 crore frontline workers who will be vaccinated free of cost.
Nearly 27 crore people aged above 50 years of age and those below 50 years of age with comorbidities will also be vaccinated on a priority basis. The first phase is expected to be completed by August 2021.
While a timeline for the rest of the population has not been decided yet, they will have to wait until phase 1 is over. Also, along with the current two approved vaccines, others such as Moderna and Pfizer are awaiting approval for use in India.
Is it mandatory to get vaccinated?
The vaccination is voluntary, however, the government has advised that people should receive the complete schedule of the vaccine to protect against the disease and also limit its spread among close contacts including family members, friends, relatives and co-workers.
Do we need to register for the vaccination?
You will need to register in order to receive the vaccination. Once registration is completed, those who are eligible will get sms alerts on their registered number informing them where and when they will get vaccinated. Once you have completed both doses, a QR code-based certificate will be sent to your registered mobile number.
The Government will use the COVID-19 Vaccine Intelligence Network (Co-WIN) system, a digitised platform to track enlisted beneficiaries for vaccination. The official app is not open to the general public yet.
Once live, the app will have five modules:
Beneficiary registration module: for self-registration and individual registration
Administrator Modules: for bulk registration
Vaccination module: for verification of beneficiary details and updates of vaccination status
Beneficiary acknowledgement module: which will send an SMS post verification of details
Report module: provide details on how many vaccine schedules have been conducted, number of people who have attended the session, SMS alert details and issuance of electronic vaccination certificate.
What documents do we need to submit?
You will need to submit any of the following photo IDs:
Aadhaar Card/Driving License/Voter ID/PAN Card/Passport/Pension Document/Job Card Passbooks issued by banks/Post Office
Government-issued service ID card
Health Insurance Smart Card issued by Ministry of Labour’
Official IDs of MPs/ MLAs/ MLCs
Healthcare and frontline workers would not need to register themselves as their data is on the database.
Should people who have recovered from COVID-19 get vaccinated?
Yes. As per the Ministry guidelines, it is advisable to receive a complete vaccine dose schedule irrespective of whether you have had COVID-19 infection or not.
What about the side effects?
While approvals have been granted after ensuring safety, as in the case of regular vaccines, those who get vaccinated could get minor side effects such as mild fever, pain, etc. at the site of injection. The Ministry has also said that states have been asked to make arrangements to deal with any COVID-19 related side effects.
Does India have the capacity to store the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. The vaccines need to be stored at a temperature of +2 and +8 degrees, as opposed to the Pfizer vaccine which requires a temperature of -70 degrees.
India already runs the world’s largest immunisation programme, which provides vaccines to more than 26 million newborns and 29 million pregnant women. The government hopes to use the help of the nearly 240,000-strong vaccinators from its Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) to handle the logistics involved in vaccinating the country’s citizens.