India will need to administer the covid-19 vaccine on a much larger scale than other vaccines when it becomes available, the Union health ministry said on Thursday as the number of cases breached 1.6 million, with 35,712 fatalities. The Centre said India has made progress in two indigenous vaccines, which are undergoing Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials on more than 1,000 subjects, each.

“We have begun to actively engage with stakeholders within and outside the government on prioritizing distribution and administering of covid-19 vaccines, as and when they become available,” said Rajesh Bhushan, secretary, Union health ministry. “There is near unanimity on the need to administer covid-19 vaccine on a much larger scale than other vaccines. Apart from questions regarding logistics, this poses many ethical questions, which are still being deliberated upon within the central government,” he said.

The ministry said India is not looking at developing herd immunity as a strategic option or choice as with a population of 138 crore, it can only come at a very “high cost”. “Herd immunity is a kind of indirect protection from an infectious disease, such as covid-19, which happens only when a population becomes immune, either through vaccination or previous infection. We need to sustain covid-appropriate behaviour, and herd immunity is not a choice or option for India,” said Bhushan.

Graphic: Mint

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Graphic: Mint

India plays a leading role in both Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a public-private global health partnership, which aims to increase access to immunization in poor countries, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the government said. A dedicated facility for vaccines called COVAX has also been developed. The World Health Organization (WHO) has evolved the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) accelerator to speed up the development, production and equitable access to new covid-19 diagnostics, drugs and vaccines.

Meanwhile, the government has received 131 insurance claims for covid-19 healthcare workers. Of these, 20 cases have been settled, while 64 are under process. and 47 are with state governments. The maximum cases were in Maharashtra, Delhi and Telangana, Bhushan said.

The Union health ministry is, meanwhile, taking technical inputs from domain knowledge experts and is preparing to issue guidelines for operating gymnasiums and yoga centres, which will be allowed to reopen from 5 August, when the country enters the next phase with Unlock 3.

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