India will have to increase the production of COVID-19 vaccines in a big way if it hopes to achieve its coverage targets, Dr Randeep Guleria, chief of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has said. It must also complement this with a comprehensive strategy for procurement of doses from abroad, he said.
"India hopes to vaccinate one crore people daily by the end of July. He said India needs to ramp up production and get as many vaccines as it can from abroad," Dr Guleria told NDTV.
He emphasised the need for a 'holistic solution' to vaccine procurement, citing the manufacturers' preference for dealing with a single authority instead of multiple ones.
The AIIMS chief's comments come in the context of several global drug makers refusing to meet demands of various state governments like those of Delhi and Punjab. They have cited their policy of negotiating with only the central government of India.
This need for state governments to seek private players' help arose following the Centre's Covid vaccine policy introduced recently, under which companies were allowed to fix their own supply contracts with private hospitals and regional authorities.
Referring to the need to focus the vaccination drive on pregnant women, Dr Guleria said, "Pregnant women have a high morbidity and mortality, so we should vaccinate them quickly." He said, going by global data, the benefits of vaccines far outweigh their negative effects as far as this segment is concerned.
"Covaxin is an inactivated virus vaccine which is similar to the flu vaccine, thus it should be safe for pregnant women," he said.
Making an important clarification on the use of immunity boosters like multivitamins and zinc supplements, the AIIMS chief said they do not to any harm, yet they should not be taken for extended periods.
Instead, he advised people to eat healthy and get these dietary constituents from natural sources.