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The coronavirus vaccine distribution in India is a daunting task. Its not easy to vaccinate a billion people. Considering that two doses have to be injected for most vaccines in development, the complexity of the task doubles. Despite India being a powerhouse in vaccine making and distribution, the challenge in front this time is huge.
From choosing the right vaccine, to making it available till last mile safely, to identifying rightful groups for the early doses, everything is a challenge. India has already dealt with the identification part with the help of NEGVAC (National Expert Group on VACcine administration). NEGVAC has already laid out a broad COVID vaccine distribution strategy.
To read about the vaccines in development for India and the first recognized contenders, follow the link.
The major challenges have still to be dealt with.
The COVID vaccine distribution challenges
Dealing with the logistics
A huge logistical exercise will have to be worked out for the vaccine to reach every nook and corner of India. Despite our 42 year-old immunization network that has successfully eradicated small pox and polio, This time the target is not just infants. With over 2.5 billion doses that have to be injected, we need that many trained vaccinators and that many auto-disabled syringes to prevent syringe re-use. Besides that we need a system to store and transport these vaccines at the required temperature. Our 27000 cold chain stores might not be able to handle the burden and offer reach to the remotest part of the country.
Tracking some 2.6 billion vaccine doses
A database of people vaccinated and those left to be done would be required. With our 1.3 billion population, and the requirement for 2 doses for each person, it becomes all the more difficult to track. People like MS Shaw and Nandan Nilekani are suggesting the use of Aadhar to record and track each dose.
Monitoring for plausible ‘adverse events’ post immunization
Vaccines come with side-effects sometimes. There would be a requirement for a mechanism to transparently report these adverse side effects. Or else, fear mongering around vaccines is not new to our country.
Black-marketing or fraud over vaccine access
People might get fake papers to become eligible for early jabs. And people might also come up with fake vaccines in the market. The authorities must be prepared to handle such circumstances.
The silver lining in the COVID vaccine distribution challenge
India already has a COVID vaccination distribution plan. The government has come up with a digital platform, CoWIN for rolling out and scaling up vaccine distribution in India. The platform will enable an Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN) to provide real time information on vaccine stocks. To ensure that no logistical glitch is left, the government has also initiated a technology contest inviting all IT solutioning companies to strengthen CoWIN. The platform is expected to address issues like portability, transportation, queue management as well as tracking.
Another silver lining was shown by the Delhi Airport. Indira Gandhi International Airport, the main handling point of vaccines has declared itself to be 100% ready for the vaccine challenge. It can store some 2.7 million doses at the required temperature at a time. As soon as a vaccine gets a green nod, the final tune up will have to be done for handling and then we would be good to go.
The stage is ready. Four Indian states, Punjab, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat are even set to test a dry run for vaccine distribution in the first week of the new year. The dry run will include testing of cold storage and transportation, deployment of vaccinators, data entry on Co-WIN, testing receipt and allocation as well as crowd management at the sites with proper social distancing.
With such meticulous preparation, things will hopefully go smooth. If the vaccine passes the new-strain test, the coronavirus vaccine distribution in India should not be a major pain to deal with.
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