India is all ready for its COVID-19 vaccination drive as the Union Ministry of Health has sent its operational framework and guidelines to states and Union territories for the distribution of the vaccine when it becomes available. Health officials have said that three vaccine companies have applied for early approval for emergency use in India: Serum Institute of India, which has been licensed to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine, Pfizer Inc and Indian manufacturer Bharat Biotech.

The Ministry of Health has devised an immunization plan and the document, which has been shared with all states, says that only 100 people per “session” at each site per day are likely to be vaccinated against Covid-19. However, the number of people per “session” might go up to 200 if logistics allow, said the Centre.

The Covid-19 vaccine will be first given to health care workers (1 crore), frontline workers (2 crore), and people above 50 years (26 crore). After this, vaccines will be given to those below 50 years of age who are suffering from a chronic critical illness (1 crore). According to the Health Ministry’s plan, a total of 30 crore people may be vaccinated in Phase-1 and it aims to do so by July-August 2021.

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Rajesh Bhushan, Union Health Secretary said that India would rely on its existing immunization programmes, which are among the largest in the world. Every year, India immunizes 26 million infants and 30 million pregnant women with 300 million vaccine doses.

The COVID-19 vaccine distribution and vaccination is already underway in the United States and India hopes to start soon but it might face a few challenges ahead.

Health officials need to ensure that the emphasis on coronavirus vaccines does not disrupt any existing immunization programmes. That means more people must be trained to administer vaccines. The immunization of adults may also require different medical professionals as they are likely to face more resistance to the shots.

Pfizer has also applied for permission to import its experimental vaccine for sale and distribution without clinical trials in India, the officials said. The company stated that it would supply the vaccine “only through government contracts based on agreements with respective government authorities” after approval. The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at very cold temperatures, which India’s existing infrastructure is unlikely to be able to provide.

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