India is now the second-worst affected country by COVID-19, with the number of confirmed coronavirus cases crossing 8.55 million as of 10 November. Many officials believe that a vaccine is the only way the world will return to normal life. But the distribution of a potential vaccine among the general public is still a question mark in everyone’s minds. According to Mint’s report, the vaccine will be distributed under a special inoculation program using the processes, technology, and network of the existing Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP).
The UIP, a program introduced by the Government of India in 1978, was first called the “Expanded Programme on Immunization” and later renamed the “Universal Immunization Programme” in 1985. Its reach was expanded beyond urban areas. It is one of the largest public health programs globally, catering to the immunization needs of some 2.67 crore newborns and 2.9 crore pregnant women annually.
The first phase of vaccine roll-out
Dr. Vinod Paul, a member of Niti Aayog and the head of a panel advising the Prime Minister on India’s efforts to produce and roll-out the vaccine, said, “Health workers, both in public and private sectors across rural and urban India are fighting the battle. Also, municipal workers and police people fighting everywhere should be a priority.”
The Central government is in the process of identifying around 30 crore priority beneficiaries and sorting this population into four categories of people who will get the vaccine in the initial phase:
- Around one crore healthcare professionals including doctors, MBBS students, nurses, and ASHA workers;
- Around two crore frontline workers, including municipal corporation workers,
- Personnel of the police and armed forces; about 26 crore people aged above 50;
- A special group of those below 50 years of age with co-morbidities and requiring specialized care.
So when will the aam admi get the vaccine?
In an interview with CNN-News18, Dr. Randeep Guleria, Director of AIIMS and a member of the national task force on COVID-19 management, said, ” COVID-19 will not vanish with vaccination… (it) will help us deliver herd immunity rapidly.”
He said that even with the vaccine, it would only “have about 50% efficacy,” which means that people will have to “follow social-distancing norms and wearing masks till the end of the pandemic.”
He believes that the COVID-19 vaccine with be easily available in the market by the end of 2021 to the beginning of 2022 for people (who are not on the priority list) to vaccine themselves.