A system to differentiate people with comorbidities is in the works to ensure those who are at a higher risk get vaccinated for COVID-19 first, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Director Dr Randeep Guleria told NDTV Friday.
The government plans to vaccinate 30 crore people in India in six to eight months, starting with doctors, nurses and others linked to fighting the pandemic, including the police.
"I am chairing a committee... We have developed criteria, whether it's diabetets, chronic renal diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, and a scoring system to try and see how can we prioritise even among people with comorbidities," Dr Guleria told NDTV.
"For example, someone with diabetes but with well-controlled diet and another who has been on insulin for 10 years, the person with the more serious diabetes becomes higher priority than the person who is stable," the AIIMS Director said.
Dr Guleria's comment comes on a day when the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India will be sent for approval to the regulator Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) by a government-appointed panel of experts.
On how much would the vaccine cost and who will pay for it, Dr Guleria said, "Currently, the vaccine cost is supported by the government, so this will be something which will be done as part of government initiative as any other vaccine programme, I don't think it's going to cost anything."
The number of vaccine doses needed per person is one of the most important aspects of the inoculation plan, Dr Guleria said. "A 28-day gap between the first and second doses is not sacrosanct," Dr Guleria said, adding the UK is giving the second dose between 28 days and 12 weeks to allow more people to be vaccinated first. This gives a large number of the population some immunity while not adding pressure to the system to deliver the second jab. A similar vaccination timeline in Brazil has shown that immunity is not affected because of this timeline, Dr Guleria said.
A dry run for vaccination is scheduled in all the states today.
The expert panel recommending the affordable Oxford vaccine to the drugs regulator is a big development for India in the fight against the pandemic on the first day of the new year, as the country has the second-biggest number of COVID-19 infections after the US.