New Delhi, April 6
As clamour increases for expansion of the ongoing COVID vaccine drive to include all above 18 years, the government on Tuesday said there was no scientific rationale or reason behind the “jab for all adults” debate.
Citing evidence of vaccine strategy across the world, including in western nations like the US, UK, Australia and Switzerland, the Health Ministry today said no country was administering COVID vaccines without age specific or vulnerability specific criteria and most had not begun vaccinating people below 50.
India from April 1 is vaccinating 45 plus people and has so far given 8.1 crore doses reaching a milestone of 43 lakh doses in the last 24 hours.
“This narrative of vaccine for all adults will deflect us from our focus. Let’s concentrate on the current strategy, inoculate all eligible people and do it fast,” Member Health NITI Aayog VK Paul said noting that no research had yet shown that expansion of vaccinations would guarantee herd immunity.
“This narrative of vaccines should not be trivialised. No vaccine research has shown yet that the immunity is achieved by expanding the scale of vaccination. It is not scientifically proven that herd immunity will be reached by vaccinating all. What has been shown is that currently in use vaccines reduce deaths and severe disease and prioritisation of populations based on predilection for deaths is key and is being done worldwide,” Paul said.
He cited WHO guidance on vaccines which is to reduce death and disease by targeting the most in need.
“Vaccine strategy is simple. Vaccines are not to be given to those desirous of vaccines. They are to be given to those in need of vaccines,” said Bhushan, after Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray wrote to Prime Minister demanding lowering the vaccine age to 25.
The government presented global data on now the US, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Australia had also prioritised populations to be inoculated.
“The thought behind vaccinations is to cover those more vulnerable to deaths. Globally, vaccine is finite. We will lose focus of our path is this vaccine narrative goes on being trivialised,” said Paul urging states to accept the Indian vaccine strategy and remove current hesitancy.
The government, meanwhile, said Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Punjab were of utmost concern to them, and that peak of the current wave could not be predicted.
Paul said the next four weeks are critical.
The Centre has sent 50 multi-disciplinary teams to the three most affected states and these will report back on daily testing, tracking and treatment indicators to help contain the pandemic surge which Paul said was “rising alarmingly”.