Around 30-40% of India’s population will be vaccinated by the end of 2021 and the covid-19 pandemic will be brought under control, Dr Randeep Guleria, director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, indicated on Thursday at the 18th edition of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit (HTLS) 2020. Participants at the virtual event will hold discussions on ‘Defining a New Era’ as the world deals with the pandemic.
“I am sure all the healthcare and frontline workers will be vaccinated, but then we also need to look at the high-risk groups,” said Guleria.
Vaccination coverage will, however, depend on the number of covid vaccines getting regulatory approval early next year, and the number of doses produced, he added.
“I hope it is at least 30-40%,” Guleria said while speaking to Hindustan Times’ editor-in-chief R. Sukumar during a session on ‘Covid-19; Where Do We Stand’. Talking about the progress of vaccine development, he said it will also be a challenge to vaccinate frontline workers.
“The Indian government is in talks with Pfizer, but not much with Moderna. We have two challenges in front of us now. One, to break the transmission chain and, the second, to make the vaccine available to all,” said Guleria, a key member of the government’s task force to manage the covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Ashish K. Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, who was also part of the panel on covid-19, said once a vaccine gets regulatory approval, it will change the situation in India and the world.
“I think the virus is going to be there for a very long time and I would say we are learning to live with it. And with the vaccine, we will learn to live in a way that doesn’t cause us the level of disruption that it did this year,” said Jha.
“The evidence so far about the vaccines has been largely reassuring. There is still a lot more that remains unknown… Some people have no symptoms at all. In the early phase, it works like a normal virus. In the second phase, however, it aggravates,” he added.
Guleria also touched upon the need to build a robust healthcare infrastructure to fight future pandemics. “Unfortunately, let’s be very honest that we really didn’t put in as much of investment and as much of effort we needed to do for a pandemic preparation. So, when it first happened, we realized two things: one, we need to learn more about this virus and, two, we need to prepare for an outbreak where you will have a surge in the number of cases. A lot of effort went into understanding how to deploy manpower.”
He said India’s response to the pandemic was good, and it has done well to contain the pandemic in an innovative and interesting way. “This has shown us that we are a resilient nation. When we started off there was a lot of panic that we might not have sufficient number of PPEs and ventilators. But, we were able to manage all of that and we even build the capacity to export PPEs.”
Guleria said India has the resilience to brave another pandemic if need be.“We did not have enough labs to test covid patients, but now we are doing 1.5 million tests a day, and that is a huge achievement.”
“(However), there has to be more investment in the public sector and involvement of healthcare professionals… whenever we have another pandemic, we must learn from this and not repeat the same mistakes,” Guleria signed off. – Mint