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Policymakers to identify groups of people who will get priority for COVID-19 vaccine

Four major challenges await India once a vaccine is available, i.e. prioritisation and fair distribution to vulnerable groups; logistics of vaccine rollout, including cold chain; stockpiling and training people who will administer this vaccine: ICMR Head

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Policymakers are actively holding deliberations to identify groups of people who will first receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it is developed, officials said.

Speaking at an international symposium on Novel Ideas in Science and Ethics of Vaccines against COVID-19 pandemic, Rajesh Bhushan, Officer on Special Duty (OSD) in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said prioritising who should get the vaccine first is a topic being discussed both within and outside the government.

“There is an emerging consensus that frontline workers are the people who have the best claim over who should get the vaccine first. But while that question engages us and there is no finality on the question, the issue of who will be on the priority list and who comes after frontline healthcare workers and that is if they come first then who are the people that would follow them,” he said.

He said deliberations are on whether it will be the elderly or it will be people with co-morbidities or whether it will be people placed in socio-economic disadvantage whose immunity has been weakened because of prolonged exposure to poverty and malnutrition.

NITI Aayog member V K Paul who is part of the COVID-19 national taskforce also said policymakers are actively deliberating to prioritise the groups of people who will first receive the COVID-19 vaccine once it is developed.

He added, “India’s journey for a safe, effective and affordable COVID-19 vaccine shall be driven by the best scientific and ethical principles and for that our regulatory and scientific mechanisms are already in place.”

Balram Bhargava, Director General, Indian Medical Research Institute (ICMR) said once a safe and effective vaccine is developed there will be four major challenges.

“One is prioritisation and fair distribution to vulnerable groups, second is logistics of vaccine rollout, including cold chain, and third is stockpiling and fourth is training people who will administer this vaccine,” he said.

“In the context of these four points, India will have to play a significant role and I can assure you that it is a part India will play with great care and responsibility. It will require immense collaboration across borders keeping in mind the noblest principles of science and humanity,” he added.

“A balance between speed and safety has to be maintained once we crystallise novel ideas,” he said.

(With edits from EP News Bureau)

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