India inoculates 1.4 million health workers in first week of vaccine campaign

New Delhi, Jan 23 (efe-epa).- Hit by technical glitches and safety concerns, India’s coronavirus vaccination campaign has been slower than expected with nearly 1.4 million health workers inoculated in the first eight days of the biggest immunization drive in the world.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched “the largest anti-covid vaccination campaign in the world” on Jan 16 to immunize 300 million people within six months.

The first round will cover 30 million doctors, nurses, and other front-line health workers.

Some 270 million people, who are over 50 or are vulnerable to Covid-19 due to illnesses, will follow next.

According to official figures, 347,000 health workers received the first dose of vaccine in the 24 hours from Friday, a daily figure that is increasing but lower than expected.

It brought the total number of vaccinated people to 1.39 million until Saturday morning with a daily average of 175,000.

The slower-than-expected pace is mostly due to an apparent malfunctioning of the CoWin (Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network) application to manage the ambitious vaccination plan.

The app informs health workers when and where they are going to receive the jabs of two vaccines — Covaxin and Covishield.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, in the western city of Mumbai, in a statement, said it had suspended the vaccination program for two days last weekend due to “technical problems in the CoWin app.”

The campaign was also hit due to some mistrust generated by the use of Covaxin, the vaccine candidate developed by local pharma Bharat Biotech with the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).

The vaccine is still in the testing phase and its effectiveness is not known as yet because the results of the third phase of clinical trials have not been analyzed.

Covaxin received drug regulator’s restricted emergency approval, alongside Covishield (the Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine that is also made in India) earlier this month.

However, The Lancet Infectious Disease journal in its review of the jab affirmed that the vaccine has shown enhanced immune response without any serious side effects in the participants enrolled for the Phase 1 trials of the jab.

Pawan Kumar Singh, who coordinates the vaccination campaign with Covaxin at a hospital in a city in the northern state of Haryana, told EFE that after the Lancet review the distrust had diminished as he blamed other factors for the poor response.

“The response is quite poor, mainly because of two reasons: one is that the number of cases of covid has declined,” he said, adding that most of the people no longer thought that vaccine was needed now.

“Second, the people who were covid positive or are showing presence of antibodies are not of the opinion that they should take vaccines.”

He said people were suspecting because the results of trials were unpublished.

“The percentage efficacy is not a concern right now. So most people (think) they already have antibodies or there are no cases nowadays.”

India is the second worst-affected nation by the pandemic, with more than 10.6 million cases and 153,184 deaths – 152 in the last 24 hours.

The spread of the virus has declined and is below 20,000 cases on daily basis for weeks now. This is far low than nearly 100,000 daily cases at the peak of the pandemic in September.

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