New Delhi [India], May 15 (ANI): Amid the second wave of COVID-19, AIIMS Delhi Director Randeep Guleria on Saturday said that the country is preparing to ramp up the vaccination drive as more vaccines shall be available in India in the next two months.
While jointly briefing the nation on the vaccination plan ahead along with Medata Chairman Naresh Tehran, Dr Guleria stated that the elderly should be vaccinated at the earliest, looking at their comorbidities and their high mortality rate.
"Vaccines will be available in large amount probably in about 2 months' time as companies that are making vaccines will start opening up their manufacturing plants, there will be more vaccine doses available. We are hopeful that we will also get approval for the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. We will have more vaccines from different companies available in our country in the coming six to eight weeks."
"I still believe that looking at comorbidities and chance of dying due to COVID-19 is much higher in those with comorbidities and elderly, we should focus on trying to vaccinate them at the earliest and also look at the larger population who can be vaccinated in a graded manner," he said.
The AIIMS chief pointed out everyone will not be able to be vaccinated in a day or two or a month and called for developing a strategy where appointments for vaccination could be given two, three or four months later for the younger age group.
"A strategy should be developed where appointments for vaccination could be given two, three or four months later for the younger age group and gradually more and more people can be vaccinated strategically."
"One of the basic weapons we have to really conquer this pandemic is vaccination. The three main pillars that we are working on currently are COVID appropriate behaviour, aggressive management strategies so that we can save lives and a very fast roll-out as far as vaccination is concerned. All three of these will help us control the pandemic and save lives. Vaccination plays a very important role as far as preventing COVID-19 is concerned."
Explaining why the duration of second dose of Covishield was increased up to 12 weeks, Dr Gueria said: "When there was this huge surge in the United Kingdom in November-December last year, they took a calculated risk and decided to extend the second dose duration up to 12 weeks. That seemed to have worked and this was seen as a successful strategy as far as both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines are concerned because they were able to vaccinate more number of people."
He also mentioned that studies from the Lancet suggest that people who took one shot had around 70 to 75 per cent of protection.
"Now that is not ideal as we would like to have as high percentage of protection as possible, because that would mean there would be still around 2 to 30 per cent of people who will get infection even after having the one shot of the vaccine. However, looking from the public health point of view, looking at the huge surge of cases that seems to be acceptable as a good number," he said.
Addressing the concern that what happens to a person's immunity when one shot of vaccine is delayed he said, "The data which emerged on the basis of mathematical modelling suggested that if you took the Covishield vaccine in less than four weeks time or around the fourth week, your immunity was around 55 to 60 per cent but if you took the shot after 12 weeks, the immunity ends up to around 80 to 85 per cent. This has prompted the regulators to recommend that the Covishield vaccine could be taken later than earlier that is why the duration for the second dose has been extended to 12 to 16 weeks."
Dr Trehan urged people to vaccinate themselves and practise COVID appropriate behaviour. He asserted that most people who have cough, cold, sore throat or fever mostly turn out to be positive, adding that they should immediately isolate themselves so that others can be protected.
He further stated that people need to follow COVID appropriate behaviour stringently as the second wave is four times deadlier than the first wave.
"Public role is very important in combatting this deadly disease. The second wave is four times deadlier than the first wave. When the first wave was controlled, people started practising relaxation in the COVID appropriate behaviour because they thought that the virus is gone. I want the people to understand that the virus is still there."
"The virus is mutating and the threat is that how will it mutate and how much. The severity with which the virus is affecting the lungs of patients has increased many folds. The infection in this wave is greater than the earlier one. People are advised to wear double masks and follow COVID appropriate behaviour while going out and they should also wear surgical masks or a cloth mask while at their homes. People who are experiencing symptoms should immediately isolate themselves."
The Medata Chairman also said that hospital beds should only be reserved for critical patients, adding that 90 per cent of COVID patients can be treated at home.
"As far as availing the hospital facility is concerned, 90 per cent of COVID patients can be treated through home isolation and COVID care isolation centres. This should be decided under a doctor's supervision that whether a COVID patient needs hospitalisation. Hospital beds should only be reserved for critical cases."
"As far as vaccines are concerned three vaccines are available in the country and these will be available in much greater quantity by June-July. Also, we have a large number of people who can vaccinate as well as readily available infrastructure to administer vaccines to people as they are available," said Dr Trehan.
He asserted that the second dose should be administered at an interval of six weeks in hotspots.
Addressing the issue that many, specifically healthcare workers got infected even after getting vaccinated, he said that those who had the protection faced a minimal infection and were able to recover at their homes within a span of 10 to 11 days.
"Therefore, people should believe that vaccines provide protection against the disease. Gradually the process of vaccination is being ramped up and everybody will be covered under the vaccination programme. Everybody should come forward for vaccination and strictly follow COVD appropriate behaviour," said Dr Trehan. (ANI)