Even if a vaccine against the coronavirus is available by early next year, healthy adults, without any underlying illness, are not likely to receive it before 2022, according to a new book 'Till We Win: India's Fight Against The Covid-19 Pandemic'. Co-authored by AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria, public policy and health systems expert Dr Chandrakant Lahariya and renowned vaccine researcher and virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang, the book is available for pre-order online and will hit the stands on December 10.
"Priority groups are likely to be health workers, the elderly and those with comorbidities who are at higher risk, as well as essential workers, which will vary from country to country," according to a frequently asked questions section in the book on who are likely to get COVID-19 vaccine first. The book suggests that "some vaccines may be available by early 2021".
"It is likely that first 20 per cent of the population vaccinated would have health workers, people in essential services and those with comorbidities and at high risk. In that case, a healthy adult is likely to receive vaccine at a later stage, likely in 2022," according to the book. It will be "two to three years" before sufficient vaccines are available to vaccinate all those in need, the authors said in the book that claims to be a definitive account of India's fight against COVID-19 and educates readers on how to deal with the pandemic in the days to come.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had recently announced a proposal to vaccinate 20 to 25 crore Indians by September next year. The book explains that the decision of which population group should be given priority for the vaccine is defined "by the purpose for which the vaccine is used".
"If the goal is to prevent maximum deaths, vaccinating health workers and the elderly makes sense in the first phase. However, if the goal is to prevent transmission, then vaccinating younger people who interact more with others is the way to consider," the authors said in the book. Bharat Biotech, Serum Institute, Zydus Cadila, Panacea Biotec, Mynvax and Biological E are among the domestic pharma firms working on coronavirus vaccines.
On herd immunity, the book said it is "still far for most of the country", and that "we should be looking to a vaccine for more predictable development of immunity". In fact, even an "imperfect vaccine" will also protect a large proportion of people, as per the book. "Regulatory agencies have stated that the vaccine should have a point estimate of 50 per cent efficacy; this means that the results of the trials should show prevention of at least half of the disease, but because of the size of the trials, it is possible that the actual efficacy of the vaccine may be higher or lower," it was said in the book. "Nonetheless, an imperfect vaccine will still protect a large proportion of people. Moreover, once a few vaccines are available, we can focus on improving their performance," the authors said.
Herd immunity occurs when a large number of people, usually 70 to 90 per cent, become immune to a contagious disease after being infected to it. Published by Penguin, the 338-page "Till We Win: India's Fight Against The Covid-19 Pandemic" is priced at Rs 298.