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India’s COVAXIN gets drug regulator nod. So, what’s next?

The World Health Organisation welcomed India’s decision giving emergency use authorization to COVID-19 vaccines, saying it will help “intensify” and “strengthen” its fight against the ongoing pandemic. “WHO welcomes the first emergency use authorization given to COVID-19 vaccine in the WHO South-East Asia Region. This decision taken by India will help intensify and strengthen the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in the Region,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the regional director, WHO South-East Asia Region.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called DCGI’s emergency approval for two vaccines in India a “decisive turning point” for the country’s vaccine development and expressed gratitude to all frontline workers for their “outstanding” work in fighting against the virus. 
 
“It would make every Indian proud that the two vaccines that have been given emergency use approval are made in India! This shows the eagerness of our scientific community to fulfill the dream of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, at the root of which is care and compassion,” Modi tweeted. 
 
The DCGI in its presser gave nod to the  “emergency restricted”  approval for two vaccine candidates in India, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Oxford-Astrazeneca’s Covishield. The drug controller said that it is paying close attention to the increasing cases of UK’s Covid-19 new strain in the country and was prioritising its threat while conducting clinical trials. 
 
India recorded 18,177 new Covid cases in the 24 hours ending 8 am Sunday, taking the total number of infections to over 1.03 crore. Active cases further dropped to  2.47 lakh, while recoveries continued to rise and stand at over 99.27 lakh. 
 
A dry run to check the best way to administer Covid-19 vaccine and plug loopholes in logistics and training was held across all states on Saturday and Sunday. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the government would not compromise on any protocol before approving a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. He appealed to people not to be misguided by rumours regarding the safety and efficacy of vaccines.
 
Meanwhile, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) director Balram Bhargava said that the Covaxin has the potential to target the new strain. “New virus variant which is now more than 60% infective & creating havoc in the UK is worrisome. There are 29 patients in India with the same variant for which we should be cautious. We have been able to isolate the new virus very soon,” said Dr. Balram Bhargava. 
 
He was also quoted as saying that the National Institute of Virology (NIV) scientists have successfully isolated the new virus strain which will be tested against different vaccines. “We hope the Bharat Biotech vaccine will have some advantages over other vaccines on this new strain because it is a whole virus,” he added.
 
Who gets it first?
 
First, the entire vaccination drive will be voluntary. The government has already announced that first in line will be 3 crore front-line workers fighting India’s battle against the novel coronavirus, including 1 crore healthcare workers and 2 crore frontline workers. 
 
Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan announced that the vaccine will be administered to them for free. Also,  receiving the vaccine in the first phase will be a third priority group — consisting of some 27 crore persons above age 50, and persons below age 50, but with associated comorbidities.
 
Free vaccine for the poor? Not really!
 
As the vaccine got a nod, Indian political leaders began their demands to administer the vaccine for free for the poor people in the country. However, the government has still not clarified on this despite making poll promises of free vaccines in several states like Bihar and others, recently. 
 
How do we register for COVID-19 vaccination? 
 
The COVID-19 Vaccine Intelligence Network (Co-WIN) system, a digital platform is used to track the enlisted beneficiaries for vaccination and COVID-19 vaccines on a real-time basis.
 
At the vaccination site, only pre-registered beneficiaries will be vaccinated per the prioritization, and there will be no provision for on-the-spot registrations. 
 
Meanwhile, eligible beneficiaries will be informed through their registered mobile numbers, regarding the Health Facility where the vaccination will be provided and the scheduled time for the same.
 
What are the documents required for registration? 
 
Documents needed for registration can be any of the 10 listed: Driving licence, PAN card, pension document, voter ID, bank passbook, MGNREGA job card, passport, government-issued service ID card and health insurance smartcard issued by the Ministry of Labour.
 

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