What do you expect from AIIMS 2019

Corona in India : Vaccinate for billions

Manish Kumar from New Delhi was the first Indian to get the corona vaccination on Saturday. The employee of the highly regarded AIIMS hospital thinks that everyone should get vaccinated. “A lot of people are afraid of the syringe, but I volunteered right away,” Kumar tells the Indian broadcaster NDTV.

For eight years he has been working in the hygiene department of the huge state clinic with almost 2,500 beds in the center of the Indian capital. The last few months have been very difficult because of the pandemic, but he has not missed a day, says Kumar proudly.

India's chief epidemiologist Samiran Panda was also emotional: "It's almost like expecting a baby and then seeing it be born," said the expert from the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR). India, with its 1.3 billion inhabitants, is the country most severely affected by Corona after the USA. The total number of infections is 10.5 million.

Over 190,000 people were vaccinated against the coronavirus on the first day of the world's largest vaccination campaign in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself gave the go-ahead for the ambitious program, with which 300 million people are to be immunized by the end of July. "We're starting the world's biggest vaccination campaign and we're showing the world what we can do," said Modi.

India is the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines. And yet the campaign didn't start perfectly: Originally, 300,000 people should have received a vaccination. Health Minister Vardhan justified this with the fact that there was no Corona app yet. So not all potential vaccine candidates could have been notified.

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The vaccine is from AstraZeneca and an Indian manufacturer

First, 30 million doctors, nurses and hospital employees should come into their own. According to this, 270 million vaccinations are given to people over the age of 50 and other risk groups. In the past week, 16.5 million vaccine doses had been distributed to over 3,000 vaccination centers in the country.

Around 200,000 vaccinators and 370,000 other team members were specially trained for the mammoth task of immunizing the entire country against corona. The authorities provided more than 29,000 refrigerators for the vaccine serums. India approved two vaccine serums at the beginning of January: the vaccine from the British-Swedish consortium AstraZeneca and the Indian manufacturer Bharat Biotech.

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Both products are inexpensive and can be stored in a standard refrigerator. Otherwise India and other emerging countries would have little chance of protecting their populations. So far, three quarters of all vaccinations have been given in the richest countries in the world.

However, India has to contend with serious reservations among its own people. According to a survey, almost 70 percent of Indians have concerns about the vaccination. This is also due to the premature approval of the domestic serum. While the AstraZeneca vaccine is already approved in other countries, clinical trials for the Indian serum Covaxin are still ongoing.

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Time is running out

The fact that the Indian pharmaceutical authorities nevertheless issued an emergency approval for it was therefore met with criticism. The authority justified its decision by saying that the vaccine had triggered a good immune response in the test subjects. In addition, time is pressing, because the newly discovered virus variants pose a greater risk. While the AstraZeneca vaccine is administered across India, Covaxin is currently only used in twelve states.

Prime Minister Modi therefore appealed to all citizens not to believe rumors about unsafe vaccinations. A series of misinformation is circulating: for example, that the vaccination makes you impotent or fatal. India reported 15,144 new infections on Sunday. The number of deaths rose by 181 to over 150,000.

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