Covid-19 testing at a school in Saket, New Delhi. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)
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Dr Paul said, “Serum (Institute of India) is manufacturing and conducting phase III trials for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. That vaccine is in phase III (trials) and (is) therefore, most advanced in terms of R&D… So, if that is successful then the possibility of vaccination opens up… By all accounts, we’re looking forward to early 2021, when such a possibility in an optimistic scenario is possible.”
Dr Paul, however, cautioned that “You cannot take effectiveness for granted. We cannot take the vaccine development for granted.” Therefore, he said, “We must continue to hope to have a vaccine but we cannot lower the guard in terms of the four strategies (testing-tracking-tracing; containment; hospital preparedness and response, clinical care; and wearing masks and observing social distancing) for control…”
Asked if the vaccine will be made available free to all Indians, Dr Paul said: “The vaccine in initial stages, in any country, is not going to be available in unlimited supply because we are zero at the moment… It will take months.”
Meanwhile, the central government issued a set of revised guidelines for international arrivals, under which travellers seeking exemption from institutional quarantine will need to submit a negative RT-PCR report 72 hours before undertaking the journey. According to the guidelines issued by the Health Ministry, passengers would need to give an undertaking on the portal or to the Ministry of Civil Aviation through concerned airlines before they are allowed to undertake the journey, stating that they would abide by the decision of the appropriate government authority to undergo facility/ home quarantine/self-monitoring of their health for 14 days, or as warranted.
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has partnered with IIHMR University in Jaipur to offer two online courses on “vaccine economics” for policymakers and programme managers to educate them on optimising vaccine coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to IIHMR University, the courses have already received 400 applications, out of which 230 participants from the field of immunisation and vaccine delivery have been short-listed. The participants are from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Somalia. From India, 53 participants have been selected to attend the programmes, out of 64 who expressed interest.