New Delhi | Pratyush Ranjan: In a major milestone, India on Thursday became the second country in the world after China to administer more than 100 crore anti-COVID-19 vaccine doses. According to data by Union Health Ministry, over 75 per cent of the adult population in India has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine while 31 per cent of the country's 93 crore adults have been administered both doses.

Speaking on India's landmark achievement, Dr Renu Swarup, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, told Jagran New Media that this is the first time in history when a vaccine has been developed in such a short span of time and administered to over 100 crore people. Lauding scientists and healthcare workers of the country, Dr Swarup said that vaccination is crucial to break the chain of COVID-19. However, she warned that people must continue following appropriate COVID-19 norms to ensure that cases do not rise again.

Here are the excerpts from the interview:

Question: What does 100 crore vaccinations mean for India?

Dr Swarup: This is a huge milestone! This has shown that India is ready to successfully face any challenge in the public health sector. We are vaccinating nearly 10 million people daily which is not easy considering India's population. I would like to congratulate our scientists and healthcare workers for making this dream come true.

I would like to note that vaccination is important to break the chain of COVID-19. However, people must continue following appropriate COVID-19 norms to ensure that cases do not rise again.

Question: India is known as a producer of vaccines. What did India do to develop vaccines?

Dr Swarup: The journey of developing a vaccine against COVID-19 is very important. For this, we brought researchers, academic institutions, firms and start-ups under one platform that helped us to develop Covaxin and start the production of Covishield that helped India launch the world's biggest COVID-19 vaccination program.

We have got permission for emergency use of a DNA-based vaccine. Besides that, a phase II trial of another mRNA vaccine is also underway. We are confident that with the scientific skills and available infrastructure, we can develop many more anti-coronavirus vaccines.

Question: COVID-19 vaccines were developed in a short span of time and were given emergency use authorisation very quickly. Did this impact the vaccine's quality?

Dr Swarup: Though vaccines were developed in a short span of time, their quality and safety were not compromised and were given emergency use authorisation after an analysis of phase II and phase III data. I would like to note that several studies have also shown the efficacy of the vaccines and have proved that they are effective against the new variants.

I would also like to note that several institutions in India, including the Department of Biotechnology's Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, are conducting studies to find the long-term effects of the vaccines.

Question- What were the challenges faced by India during different stages of vaccine development and how were they overcome?

Dr Swarup: Vaccine development is a challenging process. We faced several challenges in the technical field, which every scientific researcher has to face. We were looking at developing five to six vaccines and our challenge was to complete the research as per the demand.

It must be mentioned that India was one of the major countries which prepared a roadmap to fight a pandemic during a meeting of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in February 2020. We identified the vaccine as the strongest force and the Centre provided funds to develop a new vaccine, which also gave confidence to the industry to work on mRNA and DNA-based vaccines.

Simultaneously, we identified challenges during vaccine development but overcame them accordingly. Today, with 54 clinical trial sites, our researchers no longer need to rely on foreign countries to raise resources. We have all the research-related resources available in the country itself, so it can be said that it was a well-thought-out effort under the strategy.

Posted By: Subhasish Dutta