Boosting confidence: On need for efficient use of COVID-19 vaccine stocks

The government should ensure that the available stocks of vaccine are used efficiently

This is a far cry from many countries where demand far exceeds supply and experiments are under way to test if different vaccines can be administered as first and second doses, so that more people may get at least one dose. However, the disappearance of a pandemic does not equate to the vanishing of the virus. The results of the ongoing serology surveys from the ICMR, meant to estimate the prevalence of COVID-antibodies, say that only around 21% of the population has been exposed to the virus. That, combined with the fact that there is so far no reliable information on the kind of coronavirus variants prevalent in the population, means that India can ill-afford to be complacent. Though dreaded variants such as the South African one have not yet been identified in India, key mutations (E484K and N440K) that are known to help the coronavirus evade antibodies have been reported in India. In spite of a consortium of labs analysing variants since December, there is no firm indication from the Centre if the U.K. variant has been found outside of those with a history of international travel. However, the government’s message to not be complacent and continue to adhere to mask use is in the right scientific spirit, given the uncertainty about virus evolution. Considerable hesitancy continues to exist as evidenced in Chhattisgarh. The Centre should work on furnishing efficacy data on Covaxin as well as improving public confidence, in ways that the available stocks of vaccine can be efficiently used.

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