Centre readies distribution network for the expected early arrival of COVID Vaccine

As India awaits the arrival of the much needed COVID Vaccine, the Centre has already prepared themselves for its smooth distribution in case it is ready before the anticipated date. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has said earlier that India’s first vaccine would be available by the end of 2020. However, sources believe the vaccine may be ready earlier.

As per the sources, the government want to begin distribution as soon as the vaccine is ready. “Therefore, we have to make sure that every system and strategy is well in place so that distribution work starts immediately after the go-ahead is given by the scientists,” said a source, adding “there is a possibility of the vaccine being ready in the next four to six weeks”.

Now as the scientists take new leaps and the wait for the vaccine shortens by the day, deliberations are going on, on who should get the vaccine first once it is ready. There appears to be a general consensus that the frontline workers should get it first. Deliberations are also on, on whether the elderly people should get it or those with co-morbidities or the people placed in socio-economic disadvantages and whose immunity has been weakened due to poverty and malnutrition.

Along with holding meetings with the manufacturers, the government is also developing the Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN), an innovative technological solution aimed at strengthening immunization supply chain systems across the country. This strong platform has the potential to be leveraged for the new COVID-19 vaccine, as and when it is available.

The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 held a meeting to meet the representatives of leading domestic manufacturers, including Serum Institute of India (Pune), Bharat Biotech (Hyderabad) and Zydus Cadila (Ahmedabad) last week and took inputs about the present stage of various candidate vaccines as well as their expectations from the government.

The meeting which was chaired by Niti Aayog member V.K. Paul and co-chaired by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan asked the manufacturers about their production capacity and whether they need any kind of assistance from the government.

“The network is being implemented under the National Health Mission (NHM) by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which aims to provide real-time information on vaccine stocks and flows, and storage temperatures across all cold chain points in the country. This robust system has been used with the requisite customization during the pandemic for ensuring continuation of the essential immunization services and protecting our children and pregnant mothers against vaccine preventable diseases.”

~ Talking about the eVIN, an official said

AS per the information provided by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the eVIN has reached 32 states and Union Territories (UTs) and will soon be rolled out in the remaining states and UTs of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Ladakh and Sikkim. At present, 23,507 cold chain points across 585 districts of 22 states and two UTs routinely use the eVIN technology for efficient vaccine logistics management. Over 41,420 vaccine cold chain handlers have been introduced for digital record-keeping by training them on eVIN. Nearly 23,900 electronic temperature loggers have been installed on vaccine cold chain equipment for accurate temperature review of vaccines in storage.

While supporting the Government of India’s efforts to combat COVID-19, eVIN India is helping the state/UT governments monitor the supply chain of COVID response material. Since April 2020, eight states (Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Maharashtra) are using the eVIN application with 100% adherence rate to track state-specific COVID-19 material supplies, ensure availability and raise alerts in case of shortage of 81 essential drugs and equipment.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), on the other hand, said with its inputs and support, the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 will help Indian firms interested in any candidate vaccines, and facilitate the process of ensuring that relevant testing data is made available to India’s regulatory agencies.

“The government has set up a national expert group on vaccine administration for Covid-19. The purpose of the group, he said, is to keep India in the forefront of any ongoing efforts worldwide to innovate, prepare, produce and launch candidate vaccines to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, for India and for the world.”

~ Anurag Srivastava, MEA spokesperson

“Through the inputs and support of MEA, this expert group will help connect Indian companies which are interested in any candidate vaccines, and facilitate the process of ensuring that the relevant testing data is made available to our regulatory agencies,” Srivastava said.

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