Government outlines plan for the storage and transport of COVID-19 Vaccine

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As several experimental vaccines against the Coronavirus disease has reached the last stage of development, the government has started to outline the logistics map for the procurement, storage and distribution for the vaccine, when one becomes available.

The Centre has begun identifying both government and private facilities to create hubs for vaccine storage, with main focus on maintaining cold storage as most vaccines require to be stored and distributed at a fixed temperature, failing which the vaccine becomes ineffective.

Also read: How much air cargo is required for the COVID-19 vaccine distribution?

Under the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 that is chaired by Dr VK Paul, member (health), Niti Aayog, there are subgroups looking into various aspects of vaccine development, procurement and distribution, including one that looks at cold chain requirements.

“The subgroup has already mapped the existing cold chain that is presently being utilized under the immunisation programme of the government, and it has also made a projection of the additionality that will be required. Presently, that group is engaged with mapping the private sector facilities where with minor modifications they could be converted to serve the needs of supplementing the cold chain equipment. So, that is how things are currently developing,”

~ Rajesh Bhushan, Union health secretary.

As per reports, Real-time tracking of vaccine movement – from procurement to storage, to delivery and distribution is being planned using the electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN). It is used for the immunisation programme. The cloud-based application tracks real-time stock positioning and supply route based on the information fed by ground staff.

Harsh Vardhan, Union health minister in recent announcement said that the government was looking at procuring and utilizing about 400-500 million vaccine doses, covering about 200-250 million people.

At present, India has about 27,000 vaccine storage centres across all 700 plus districts that are connected through eVIN; with at least 50,000 temperature loggers to monitor storage temperatures as accurately as possible for at least 40,000 frontline workers to manage logistics.

“We already have a well-oiled machinery in place as far as vaccine delivery is concerned with a robust national immunisation programme running. That will be made use of for Covid-19 also. Apart from polio, there are other vaccines needing cold storage like the measles vaccine. It won’t be a problem,” said Dr VK Paul.

If experts are to be believed, India has the capacity to handling the logistics.

“I don’t see it as a problem as India already has a large-scale Universal Immunisation Programme running that can easily be made use of for Covid vaccine delivery also. A lot of logistical arrangements are currently being made in a well-coordinated manner that should see us through,”

~ Dr YK Gupta, former head, pharmacology department, and advisor, Translational Health Science & Technology Institute.

As far as the price of the vaccine is concerned it has not been fixed yet.

“The price of single-dose or the price of two-dose vaccine, because most of the vaccines that are being worked across the globe are two-dose vaccines, is still evolving. And we have seen that in an extremely dynamic situation as the vaccines prove their safety and efficacy, and till the time they prove their safety and efficacy, whatever figure is being bandied around is just a figure. So, any indicative price for a single-dose or a double-dose vaccine becomes a plausible figure once the vaccine has been able to demonstrate its safety and efficacy. And once that is done by multiple vaccines, then the prices decline, and decline drastically. Therefore, at the present moment in time, we do not hazard a guess,” Bhushan said.

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