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80 crore adult COVID-19 doses by December: Chair, COVAX Global Expert Group

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20 crore monthly doses in September, 25 crores in October, and 35 crore each in November and December are expected

A day after India got is first COVID vaccine for children above 12, Prof. Narendra Kumar Arora, Chair, Global Expert Group Immunisation, COVAX under the aegis of the WHO, said India is likely to get 80 crore doses for adult vaccination between September and December this year. Speaking at the inaugural of India Immunisation Summit, organised by Integrated Health & Wellbeing (IHW) Council, Prof Arora highlighted that vaccine acceptance in India is among the highest in the world.

“There is a limited number of vaccines available and we are making a lot of effort to get doses from all over the world. We have invested more than INR 2000 crore in vaccine production in the past one-and-a-half years, and we are the largest vaccine producers in the world. As the production is ramped up and availability is increased, we are expecting to deliver 20 crore monthly doses in September, 25 crores in October, and 35 crore each in November and December. As per the COWIN data, 6 to 7 per cent of the current doses are being administered by the private hospitals. It also shows India’s vaccine acceptance is among the highest in the world and two-third of the doses have been administered in rural areas,” says Prof. Narendra Kumar Arora.

Recalling the inception of Mission Indradhanush, the world’s largest immunisation program, its chief architect Dr Rakesh Kumar, Former Joint Secretary, MoHFW; Senior Deputy DG, ICMR, & Addl Country Director, UNDP India, says, “The WHO conducted a study of 1 lakh parents whose children were not vaccinated and found that 33 per cent of them knew nothing about immunisation while the other 33 per cent were aware about the AEFI (adverse event following immunisation). We chose to adopt a health systems approach while implementing Mission Indradhanush and focussed on 4 pillars: behaviour change communication, capacity building, strengthening ANMs and bodies like WHO and UNICEF monitoring and evaluating their work. The programme increased immunisation coverage from 1 percentage point a year to 7 percentage points in one year. However, it is high time we sustain child immunization programmes but move to better adult immunisation.”

Talking about adolescent vaccination for cervical cancer, Geeta Athreya, Former Communication Specialist, UNICEF India says, “School system provides a good platform for HPV vaccination, and even anaemia control through iron-folic acid supplementation. The schools can inform parents and address their questions – people’s fears have to be addressed. Communication has to be personalised and community workers can play an important role in putting that personal touch. Besides, affordability of vaccines is important – we must ensure the range of price is uniform.”

“Planning for immunisation programmes must be done at a primary health centre level and not by central and state machinery. It is important to continue life-course immunization as with faster travel has made infections and pandemics travel faster as well,” says Dr Sanjiv Kumar, Chairperson, Indian Academy of Public Health & Member, Governing Board, National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW).

“Nearly one million children in India die before their fifth birthday and about one of every four of these deaths are caused by pneumonia and diarrhoea despite pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) being introduced in more than nine million immunization sessions held across the country every year. The scare of COVID infection has affected new parents so much that immunization dropped drastically – the UNICEF says more than 3 million children missed the first dose of DTP vaccine in India in 2020, which is 1.6 million more than in 2019. Infectious diseases like pneumonia kill 40,000 Indians every year, and yet, many of us remain out of the safety guard of a pneumococcal vaccine. In absence of a holistic vaccine policy for adults, India faces a tremendous challenge in addressing their vaccine hesitancy. It is among the top factors that are affecting the ongoing vaccination against COVID-19 as well,” says Kamal Narayan, CEO, Integrated Health and Wellbeing (IHW) Council.

The day-long summit also discussed challenges, opportunities and impact of vaccines to fight infections among infants, children and pregnant women; bridging the gaps based on COVID-19 experience; and preventive strategy against NCDs through timely vaccination and its newer approaches.

Other speakers who joined these discussions included, Prof (Dr) A B Dey, Consultant Healthy Ageing, WHO & Former Head, Department of Geriatric Medicine, AIIMS, New Delhi; Dr Dinesh Baswal, Deputy Director, Programs, MAMTA &  Ex-Joint Commissioner, Maternal Health, MoHFW; Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, Epidemiologist, Public Health, and Policy Expert; Dr Giridhar R Babu, Professor and Head – Life Course Epidemiology, PHFI & Member, ICMR National Task Force for COVID-19; Dr Farzana Islam, Professor and HOD, Community Medicine, Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences & Research, Jamia Hamdard University, Delhi; and Dr Saumendra Nath Bagchi, Lead Immunization Implementation Program, Clinton Health Access Initiative, Inc.

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