A group of public health experts, including doctors from All India Institute of Medical Sciences and members of the coronavirus National Task Force, have warned that mass, indiscriminate and incomplete vaccination could trigger emergence of mutant strains, PTI reported on Thursday.
Vaccinating those vulnerable and at risk should be the aim at present, instead of inoculating mass population including children, said experts from Indian Public Health Association, Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine and Indian Association of Epidemiologists in their latest report submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi
“The present situation of the pandemic in the country demands that we should be guided by the logistics and epidemiological data to prioritise vaccination rather than opening vaccination for all age groups at this stage,” the experts said. “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.”
They added that vaccinating young adults and children was not supported by evidence and would not be cost effective. “Given the rapid transmission of infection in various parts of the country, it is unlikely that mass vaccination of all adults will catch up with the pace of natural infection among our young population,” the report said.
Some countries, including the United States and Canada, have authorised Covid vaccines for use in children as young as 12. However, vaccinating children in rich countries – even as many parts of the world await doses for their vulnerable population – has raised concerns.
Experts have also flagged the possibility that low levels of vaccination in some countries could fuel the emergence of dangerous variants and lengthen the global pandemic. Besides, several states in India are facing shortages of vaccine doses.
In their report to Modi, the experts have also recommended that was no need to vaccinate people who had been diagnosed with coronavirus infection. “These people may be vaccinated after generating evidence that vaccine is beneficial after natural infection,” they said. “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.”
The report attributed the devastating second wave of the pandemic in India to multiple variants of the virus. The B.1.617.2 variant, along with strains first found in United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, are seen as more dangerous than the original version because they are more transmissible.
Experts also pointed out that the government has conducted genome sequencing of less than 1% of its positive samples. They added that India was also behind other high incidence countries in another crucial measure – sequencing per 1,000 Covid cases.
Efforts should be made to achieve a genome-sequencing target of at least 3%.
They wrote that genetic sequences have to be tracked to delineate virus transmission both across the community and in health care settings. “It can detect outbreaks that may otherwise be missed by traditional methods,” the report stated.