Even as we take a moment to laud ourselves for successfully completing a month since the COVID-19 vaccination drive started in India, it behoves us to continue our efforts to broaden and deepen our understanding of the disease and ways to combat it.
Keeping this mind, we concluded our 10th doctors-led Practo Connect webinar on February 13 on what physicians need to know about the COVID-19 vaccination in India. Led by experts from the Academy of Family Physicians of India (AFPI), we had the opportunity to learn from the experiences of an impressive line-up of speakers – including Dr Raman Kumar, AFPI President; Professor Sunil Raina, HOD, Community Medicine; Dr Rajendra Prasad Government Medical College, Tanda, Himachal Pradesh; and Dr Arvind Kumar, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
“India may be focused on efficient distribution of COVID-19 vaccines today, but this follows a carefully crafted regulatory framework to ensure that allocation of its limited supply is fair and first reaches people who need it the most,” said Professor Sunil during the webinar.
This has led to a vaccination roadmap anchored around a risk-based approach that prioritizes severity of the pandemic, the harm it is likely to cause and the impact it is expected to bring if it is made available – with the ultimate goal of providing maximum benefit.
With more vaccines in the pipeline, it was interesting to go back and learn from the experience of Dr Arvind as he chronicled the journey undertaken by AIIMS during phases 1 and 2 of the clinical trials held at the institute and the dry run that preceded the ongoing inoculation rollout.
“This gave us the opportunity to be in close quarters with healthcare professionals and understand any reservations they may have about the vaccine, enabling us to work towards addressing their concerns,” said Dr Arvind.
“In addition to throwing light on the probable challenges that may arise, it also helped us study the side-effects deeply and develop a protocol to combat ill-effects after the vaccination. All this has prepared us well for the actual execution of the inoculation programme,” he added
However, this, in no way, underplays the massive challenge in carrying out the gargantuan task of administering COVID-19 vaccine in a country like India with its diverse population, geographical spread and prevailing logistical and infrastructural issues. Yet, despite this, the pandemic has brought to light our capacity to successfully run programmes at a large scale level. Not only do we have a strategy in place to vaccinate this population, we are also well-positioned to support other countries in their endeavor to curb the spread of the Coronavirus.
Describing it as a collective win for all of us, Dr Raman said, “India’s prompt response during the initial stages of the pandemic and concerted efforts by government officials, bureaucrats, frontline workers and the overall public health system have carved a success story out of the chaos brought on by the pandemic. And with 70 lakh Indians already covered under the ongoing vaccination programme and no major side-effects reported, all fears and misconceptions associated with the safety of the vaccine should be allayed. Combined with the fact that cases in India are on the decline, we have a legitimate cause for hope and relief.”
As India prepares to enter phase 2 of the vaccination drive on the back of greater supply and availability of more vaccines, it may be comforting to believe that our tolerance and resilience to infections has helped strengthen our immune system. Combined with the fact that cases in India are still low – relative to the population size – possibly because of restricted movement and the lack of travel from large parts of the country that is rural, India may be closer to achieving herd immunity in fighting COVID-19 earlier than anticipated.
Join us every month as we partner with leading industry and doctor associations for our educational webinar series, Practo Connect. Hosted exclusively for the doctors, by the doctors, it is intended to help doctors navigate these uncertain times better.
Watch this as well as previous webinars here: https://bit.ly/37xwThl