Exclusive: We cannot lower the guard and succumb to third wave of Covid-19 in India, says Dr Devi Shetty

Bengaluru - 'Robust, seamless and community-driven vaccination campaigns is the way out'

By Seethalakshmi S

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Published: Tue 15 Jun 2021, 10:02 AM

India is reporting a sharp drop in the daily Covid-19 cases. However, Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, the renowned cardiologist and a member of the Supreme Court of India (SCI) appointed National Task Force for Covid-19, said the third wave is looming large and discretion would be the better part of valour.

In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, he made it clear that robust, speedy and community-driven vaccination campaigns would help every Indian to overcome the contagion challenge.

Excerpts from the interview:

How real is the third wave?

We must believe it is real, as the virus has shocked everyone, including the brightest and sharpest minds in the world. I have always believed we must be prepared for any eventuality in the coming months. We should not forget the horror that the second wave unleashed on us.

Universal vaccination seems to be the only answer, but the task is humongous considering our huge population and a shortage in the supply of vaccines. What do we do?

There is no doubt that we are at the most challenging phase of this pandemic, which is universal vaccination. But then we must do it. We do not have a choice. And time is fast running out. The government and experts are working overtime to put the best strategy in place that will vaccinate 10 million Indians daily. That is only the way out to ride out the third wave.

The Centre has unveiled a new vaccine policy. Will that help?

Individual states negotiating with vaccine companies will not work, as it will lead to unnecessary competition among these states and poor people will be caught in between. A centralised agency will ensure seamless supply of vaccines which is the need of the hour. The Centre should increase the purchase from Indian manufacturers from the current 75 per cent to 100 per cent.

But how much can two Indian companies supply for this large country? Aren't we being over-dependent on them and as a result, delaying the process of universal vaccination?

No, we cannot just rely on a few Indian manufacturers. We must fast-track procurement from foreign companies as well in a bid to ensure that the vaccine pool gets bigger. If a certain section can pay for the foreign vaccine, then the government can divert those jabs for the poor. We must do everything possible to ensure universal vaccination is ramped up at the earliest.

It is also important that there is accountability in the entire vaccination drive. States must set up audits for vaccines received and administered to citizens. Vaccines cannot be wasted as every single jab can save a life. There must be transparency and honesty in the entire initiative so that there is a combined fight against the virus.

Do you advocate centralised purchase but decentralised vaccine implementation at state level?

Yes. It must become a community initiative so that it is fast-tracked. Involve citizens, train people to vaccinate so that we do not depend on our already stretched healthcare workers. The jabs must be administered under medical supervision, as there is no room for any human error. Our nurses can train volunteers. We need to get out of unnecessary protocols and take up vaccination on a war-footing. It must be a 24x7 exercise so that lack of access to vaccination does not lead to loss of human lives.

What about rural India, where the healthcare infrastructure is not all that robust?

Many states have begun to focus on rural pockets. Door-to-door testing has started in earnest. The solution lies in how fast we can vaccinate the rural population to contain the spread of the viral outbreak. We can involve the rural administrative bodies, auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs), and local women can also be roped in to vaccinate the village folks. Universal vaccination drive is the only way to beat the third wave.


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