At 2 billion | The Indian Express

If there is one thing that the meaning of India’s 2 billion covid jabs milestone In perspective, it is like this: Social and economic life has definitely returned to the normality before the pandemic. Though the virus continues to cause disease, it doesn’t come close to the deadly pathogen that swept the country around this time last year. Vaccines have changed the course of the pandemic – hospitalizations and deaths have been low over the past eight months, even during periods of high infection numbers. That the public health emergency across the country was overcome without the urban-rural divide impeding vaccine distribution is a commendable achievement for the regulatory, administrative, and medical authorities among the center and states, as well as for the countless frontline healthcare workers. It is true that the country has a proven track record in vaccine manufacturing, and its childhood immunization projects have helped mobilize a cadre of trusted immunization experts. But the Covid vaccination campaign presented unprecedented challenges – regulators had to work to compressed timetables and vaccine reluctance tested the persuasiveness of local officials and health workers. Things weren’t always smooth. The delivery mechanism collapsed when the center left states to their own devices during the second wave, and it took a Supreme Court nudge last June for the vaccination campaign to gain momentum.

Last week, the center launched a special 75-day promotion where the third preventive dose will be administered free of charge at all state immunization centers. This is a welcome initiative. However, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of the current batch of vaccines against the subvariants of the Omicron strain responsible for most Covid infections today. Conversations in several developed countries have shifted to tackling these relatively less virulent strains that leave lasting effects on patients. Last month, pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNtech announced that a booster dose of their vaccine candidate resulted in a “significantly higher response to Omicron” in clinical trials. However, experts warn against giving much importance to these initiatives because of the virus’s ability to develop vaccine-resistant versions. They also point out that regular administration of booster vaccinations is not feasible. Some experts believe that the answer to this dilemma lies in a multi-variant vaccine that can fight all coronaviruses. As with most aspects of the pandemic, there is no consensus among experts on this issue. However, at least 10 universal candidates are in different stages of development. India should not be an outlier in these experiments.

Last month, in recognition of India’s position on vaccine intellectual property rights, the WTO agreed to waive patents on Covid vaccines. Vaccine manufacturers in India should not miss this opportunity to initiate talks with laboratories working on the universal vaccine – in addition to big pharmaceutical companies, these include universities and non-profit organizations. Where appropriate, government should facilitate such efforts. The lessons of the past year and a half should guide the next round of vaccinations.

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