India readies colossal coronavirus vaccine rollout

India readies colossal coronavirus vaccine rollout
First to get one of two vaccines granted “emergency approval” will be 30 million health and other frontline workers. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 11 January 2021

India readies colossal coronavirus vaccine rollout

India readies colossal coronavirus vaccine rollout
  • India hopes to inoculate 300 million people — equal almost to the entire US population — by July
  • India has held several national dry runs involving mock transportation of vaccines and dummy injections

NEW DELHI: India aims to begin vaccinating its 1.3 billion people against coronavirus from Saturday, a colossal and complex task compounded by safety worries, shaky infrastructure and public skepticism.
In one of the world’s biggest rollouts, the planet’s second-most populous nation hopes to inoculate 300 million people — equal almost to the entire US population — by July.
First to get one of two vaccines granted “emergency approval” will be 30 million health and other frontline workers, followed by around 270 million people aged over 50 or deemed high-risk all over the vast nation.
About 150,000 staff in 700 districts have been specially trained, and India has held several national dry runs involving mock transportation of vaccines and dummy injections.
Authorities will use the experience from holding elections in the world’s biggest democracy, and from regular child immunization programs for polio and tuberculosis.
But in an enormous, impoverished nation with often shoddy transport networks and one of the world’s worst-funded health care systems, the undertaking is still daunting.
Regular child inoculations are a “much smaller game” and vaccinating against Covid-19 will be “deeply challenging,” said Satyajit Rath from the National Institute of Immunology.
The two vaccines approved by India — AstraZeneca’s Covishield, made by local partner the Serum Institute, and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin — need to be kept refrigerated at all times.
A total of 29,000 cold-chain points, 240 walk-in coolers, 70 walk-in freezers, 45,000 ice-lined refrigerators, 41,000 deep freezers and 300 solar refrigerators are at the ready.
India has four “mega depots” to take delivery of the vaccines and transport them to state distribution hubs in temperature-controlled vans, but the final leg will be tough.
In one recent exercise in rural Uttar Pradesh — where summer temperatures exceed 40 degrees Celsius (105 Fahrenheit) — a health worker was pictured transporting boxes of dummy vials on his bicycle.
In Kashmir, currently being pummelled by snowstorms, databases of priority groups — and of staff to administer the vaccines — were still being prepared last week, officials said.
During the last dry run on Friday, workers at one health center in Bangalore had to use a cellphone hotspot to go online because their network was down.
There are also concerns about the government’s aim to manage the entire process digitally via its own app, CoWIN — of which there are already several fake versions.
As of Monday, it also remained unclear whether the government has yet to agree a price per jab with the Serum Institute.
Tens of millions of shots are reportedly sitting at Serum’s factory in the southern city of Pune waiting for an agreement before a fleet of refrigerated trucks can take them to the airport.
More than 150,000 Indians have died from Covid-19 and the economy is one of the worst-hit worldwide, with millions losing their livelihoods.
“I look forward to getting the vaccine and living without fear and the mask all the time,” migrant worker Shatrughan Sharma, 43, told AFP in the capital, New Delhi.
“The last year was very tough for us.”
But like in other countries, there is skepticism about the vaccine, fueled by a torrent of misinformation online.
A recent survey of 18,000 people across India found that 69 percent were in no rush to get a Covid-19 shot.
Public trust was not helped by Bharat Biotech’s indigenous vaccine being controversially given “restricted approval” without data from Phase 3 human trials.
Plans by Serum to sell the AstraZeneca jab privately to Indian individuals and firms for 1,000 rupees ($14) has also raised fears that the rich will get inoculated sooner.
“There will be a long wait for poor people like me as the rich and well-off will get it first,” Suresh Paswan, a rickshaw puller in Patna, in the eastern province of Bihar, told AFP.

Related


6.3-magnitude earthquake hits central Greece

6.3-magnitude earthquake hits central Greece
Updated 22 min 52 sec ago

6.3-magnitude earthquake hits central Greece

6.3-magnitude earthquake hits central Greece

ATHENS: A strong 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit central Greece on Wednesday, the US Geological Survey said, prompting residents in the city of Larissa to rush into the streets according to local media.
The Institute of Geodynamics in Athens said the quake, which could be felt across central and northern Greece, had measured at a magnitude of 6.0.
According to the Athens observatory, the epicentre of the quake was 21 kilometres (13 miles) south of the town of Elassona, near Larissa.


Made in India: Ministers, officials prefer locally-developed vaccine over AstraZeneca

Made in India: Ministers, officials prefer locally-developed vaccine over AstraZeneca
Updated 03 March 2021

Made in India: Ministers, officials prefer locally-developed vaccine over AstraZeneca

Made in India: Ministers, officials prefer locally-developed vaccine over AstraZeneca
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier opted for an Indian-made COVID-19 vaccine

NEW DELHI: Government ministers and officials were following Prime Minister Narendra Modi lead by opting on Tuesday for an Indian-made COVID-19 vaccine approved without late-stage efficacy data, instead of the AstraZeneca one.
India’s health, foreign and law ministers, and state governors, all flocked to Twitter to express support for the much-criticized Bharat Biotech’s COVAXIN vaccine, after it was administered to Modi on Monday.
“Made-in-India vaccines are 100% safe,” Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said after being inoculated with COVAXIN.
Many state officials and doctors have refused to take COVAXIN before its effectiveness could be proved. Bharat Biotech says it has completed the late-stage trial and results will be out this month.
The company said the endorsement by Modi and other ministers would set an example for other Indians and reduce “vaccine hesitancy.” It is seeking to sell COVAXIN to countries including Brazil and the Philippines.
COVAXIN and the AstraZeneca vaccines were approved by India’s regulator in January. The government has distributed to states a total of 50 million doses of the vaccines but only 12 percent of the 12 million people immunized so far have taken COVAXIN, according to government data.


Explosion hits Dutch COVID-19 testing center, no injuries — police

Explosion hits Dutch COVID-19 testing center, no injuries — police
Updated 03 March 2021

Explosion hits Dutch COVID-19 testing center, no injuries — police

Explosion hits Dutch COVID-19 testing center, no injuries — police

AMSTERDAM: Dutch police on Wednesday said a coronavirus testing location north of Amsterdam appeared to have been intentionally targeted after an explosion went off at the location before the site opened.

The blast in the town of Bovenkarspel, 55 km north of the capital, shattered windows but caused no injuries, police from the province of North Holland said in a statement.

They said they had cordoned off the area to investigate.

The explosive “must have been placed” there, police spokesman Menno Hartenberg told Reuters, adding that “something metal” had caused the explosion.

“We don't know yet exactly what exploded, the explosives experts must first investigate,” Hartenberg said.

“What we're saying is that something like that doesn't just happen by accident, it has to be laid,” he spokesman said.


Pakistan Senate election kicks off as Imran Khan’s ruling party looks for majority

Pakistan Senate election kicks off as Imran Khan’s ruling party looks for majority
Updated 03 March 2021

Pakistan Senate election kicks off as Imran Khan’s ruling party looks for majority

Pakistan Senate election kicks off as Imran Khan’s ruling party looks for majority
  • Imran Khan’s coalition does not have a majority in the Senate, needed to pass key legislation

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: The ruling party of Prime Minister Imran Khan and his political allies will seek to wrest control of Pakistan’s Senate from opposition parties on Wednesday in indirect elections to 37 seats in the 104-member upper house of the country’s parliament.
Though his party won the 2018 general election, Khan’s coalition does not have a majority in the Senate, needed to pass key legislation – including legal reforms sought by global institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and money laundering watchdog the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
“They have difficulty in legislating, and many laws are stuck,” Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, head of the independent research organization PILDAT, said.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), which translates into Pakistan Movement for Justice, has 12 seats in the Senate, and the two main opposition parties Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) have 12 and 25 seats each.
PTI is looking to go up to 25 seats after the elections, and, along with other coalition parties and independents, have a slender majority in the Senate.
The electoral college for the Senate elections, which are held every three years on half of the chamber’s strength, comprises Pakistan’s four provincial assemblies and the lower house of parliament.
With opposition parties controlling the Senate, the government has had to pass interim legislation through Presidential Ordinances, which expire in 120 days.
The government’s legislators and allies in the lower house of parliament will vote on making Khan’s finance minister, Abdul Hafiz Sheikh, a senator. The result could show how much confidence there is in the administration.
“It could determine who has a majority in parliament... it will be an embarrassment for the government, and could even lead to seeking a fresh vote of confidence,” Mehboob said.
The lead up to the potentially pivotal election has been marked by the government and opposition charging each other with seeking votes through unfair means.


Daesh claims responsibility for attack on media workers in eastern Afghanistan

Daesh claims responsibility for attack on media workers in eastern Afghanistan
Updated 03 March 2021

Daesh claims responsibility for attack on media workers in eastern Afghanistan

Daesh claims responsibility for attack on media workers in eastern Afghanistan
  • Daesh fighters targeted three female employees of a television station

Daesh claimed responsibility for an attack that killed three female media workers in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday evening.
The militant group, which has a presence in Afghanistan, said its fighters had targeted the three female employees of a television station in the eastern city of Jalalabad, according to SITE Intelligence group.
Three women who worked for Enikas TV aged between 18 and 20 had died and a fourth was critically injured after being shot on their way home from work, Afghan officials had said.