New Delhi | Pratyush Ranjan: From effective measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic to celebrating the 'vaccine century' by completing 100 vaccine doses, India is receiving praises from across the globe. However, we must not forget that pandemic is yet not over, and people are still contracting the deadly virus.

In the latest episode of Jagran Dialogues, Pratyush Ranjan, Executive Editor, Jagran New Media, talked to Prof (Dr) Narendra K Arora, Chairman, Covid Working Group of National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), to know how India is preparing for the next fight against the pandemic.

Q. When will the vaccination drive for children aged below 18 will commence?

A. The preparation to commence the vaccination drive for children is underway, and so far, few vaccines are being prepared for them, namely Zycov D vaccine, Covaxin, Corbevax of BioE, Novavax of Serum and mRNA vaccine. Just like adult vaccination drive, there are categories in children-- those who are unwell or have a high possibility of contracting the virus will be the first ones to receive the vaccine dose, followed by healthy children. The list regarding the same will be released within a few weeks. He further added that it is expected in the year 2022, children will start receiving vaccine doses.

Q. So far, more than 108 crore COVID vaccines have been administered in India. How has been the fight with corona so far for the Government of India, Ministry of Health, Corona Warriors and all you experts?

A. Congratulations to the entire countrymen for the role they have shown in this fight against Corona. It has been a concerted effort of all the people. The roadmap for this effort was prepared only in February-March last year. It was very clear that the way to avoid this pandemic is the vaccine along with other measures. The whole scientific ecosystem was transformed almost overnight. India was already the manufacturer of the vaccine, now preparations have been made for both vaccine developer and manufacturer.

He further added that Covishield's manufacturing power was increased to a level that Serum Institute can make about 300 million vaccines today. This was done under a well thought out strategy. What we have achieved today, its foundation was laid almost two years ago.

Q. What is the Har Ghar Dastak Abhiyan campaign and its goal?

A. The basic objective behind the Har Ghar Dastak Abhiyan campaign is that one has to go to every house to see who has been vaccinated and who has not. If a person is an adult then, he/she should be vaccinated, or if he/she has received one dose then, it is necessary to take another. Preparations have already been made for this. If we have 6-6.5 lakh villages, and there are 10-12 lakh Ashas in that region then, the Asha sisters know who has got vaccinated and who is left. Similarly, such micro-planning has been done at the ward level in urban areas as well. If we look at today's figures, there are about 75 per cent of people who have received the second shot of vaccine and 25 per cent have got the first dose.

Along with this, it is being ensured that there is no shortage of vaccines anywhere. To reach the last 20 per cent, a target has been set that by November 30, every person will have at least one vaccine.

Q. According to the news report, a rapidly spreading strain of the delta variant of the coronavirus has been found in American and UK labs. Scientists are already worried about other variants of Delta, which currently have many cases in the US. According to another report, thousands of variants of the Delta variant have been spotted. Are these variants likely to be seen in India as well?

A. I will give you good news, the first news is that India has a surveillance network, through which all the variants of Covid across the globe that have come out have been found here as well. This means that our surveillance network is well maintained, it is not that anything outside is detected that we are not aware of. Especially you mentioned AY.4.2, which has been described by many countries as big, till date 40-50 viruses have been found here. Wherever a new mutation is found, it is closely observed and scrutinised to see if it is spreading rapidly. So far, the Delta variant has been the biggest shade for us. The other variants, which are gradually increasing, there is nothing to worry about. AY.4.2 was received by us in February-March i.e. it has been 6 months and till now it has not increased.

Q. Diwali has just concluded in which many people followed the guidelines related to Covid. In such a situation, tell us how important it is to follow the precautions related to Covid?

A. After Dussehra, there was a lot of concern that the cases of Covid may increase once again in the country and it did increase but only in a few states. This time it was seen that people celebrate the festival in a very restrained and mature manner. We all deserve praise.

On the other hand, relaxation is very important, efforts are being made that people follow the protocols. Efforts have been made that there should be no crowding, if covid-appropriate behaviour is maintained, then there should not be any special problem. However, people are advised to not get carried away by emotions because the festival comes every year and pandemic comes once in 100 years. If we keep patience at this time, then we will get rid of this deadly virus soon.

Q. We saw in March-April-May 2020 and 2021, both of these years saw increasing cases in these three months. Can 2022 also witness the same wave in these months? Do you see any such possibility?

A. It seems very unlikely unless a very dangerous variant comes along. There are two or three reasons for this, first, vaccination is progressing very quickly, and to date, at least 80 per cent of adults have received at least the first vaccination. The second thing is that in the serosurveys that have been done across the country, there are 80, 85 and 90, you must have heard now that 97 per cent are seropositive in Delhi. Sero positivity can be due to two reasons, natural infection or due to vaccination. So overall we have a large number of people who have been infected or have been vaccinated. The seropositivity in children is equal to that of adults. So in such a situation, only if such a variant comes, which dominates all the old variants, then only the cases will increase. But we have very little hope that the same misery that we suffered in April-May this year will happen again.

You can listen to the full interview here:

Posted By: Niharika Sanjeeiv