A mass and unplanned vaccination drive can cause mutated strains of the coronavirus to emerge and recommended to avoid people infected with Covid earlier, a group of public health experts said.
The group, including experts from Indian Public Health Association (IPHA), Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine (IAPSM) and Indian Association of Epidemiologists (IAE), in a recent report stated that vaccinating the vulnerable and those at risk should be prioritized rather than mass population-wide inoculation for all age groups including children. The experts suggested people infected earlier with Covid19 are better off vaccinated if there are evidences to be firm that vaccine shots could be beneficial after natural infection.
"Opening all fronts simultaneously will drain human and other resources and would be spreading it too thin to make an impact at the population level," PTI cited the report, which has been submitted to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The experts pointed out that it is "unlikely" that mass vaccination of all adults will catch up with the pace of natural infection among our young population, given the rapid transmission of infection in various parts of the country.
"Vaccine is a strong and powerful weapon against the novel coronavirus. And like all strong weapons it should neither be withheld nor used indiscriminately; but should be employed strategically to derive maximum benefit in a cost-effective way," health experts said, adding that vaccine administration should be scheduled based on data for areas or populations experiencing surge due to variants.
As the country is fighting the pandemic limited availability of vaccines, the report claimed that the emphasis should be to reduce deaths, majority of which are among older age groups and those with chronic illnesses or obesity. Considering the present constraints, inoculating young adults will not be cost-effective.
Implementing real time local surveys repeatedly by the end of the second wave to evaluate the vulnerability at district level to lead the vaccination strategy.
India has done its positive samples and also lags behind other high incidence countries in another crucial measure, sequence per 1,000 cases.
India has only achieved genome sequencing of less than 1 percent and at least 3 percent mark should be made to reach, said the group.
The molecular epidemiology investigations need to be accelerated with Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) scientists, field epidemiologists and clinical specialists to map out the features of the covid variants.
As there is an acute shortage of testing facilities in rural and peri-urban areas, systematic approach should be enforced after sensitisation of healthcare staff. The vaccination status of all individuals tested for Covid19 must be entered into an app, and must be analysed periodically to know the status, the report further suggested.