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How govt plans to distribute Covid-19 vaccine

By Sohini Das
August 13, 2020 15:23 IST
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The procurement and distribution will be centralised though  the government is yet to take a call on the initial number of doses that will be procured.

India plans to create a digital infrastructure for inventory management and last-mile delivery of Covid-19 vaccines.

This was discussed at the first meeting of the national expert group on vaccine administration held in New Delhi on Wednesday.

 

The committee has also advised states to not chart “separate pathways” for procuring the vaccines.

The procurement and distribution will be centralised, said a senior government official present at the meeting.

The government is yet to take a call on the initial number of doses that will be procured.

A person close to the development said it is not yet clear how many shots will be required for each one of the various vaccine candidates under development globally and in India.

“Once there is more clarity on that front, we can decide on the number of doses we would need. This is a work in progress,” he said.

The national expert group, chaired by Dr VK Paul, member NITI Aayog, “deliberated on conceptualisation and implementation mechanisms for creation of a digital infrastructure for inventory management and delivery mechanism of the vaccine including tracking of vaccination process with particular focus on last mile delivery,” the central government said.

They discussed broad parameters that will guide the selection of Covid-19 vaccine candidates and sought inputs from the Standing Technical Sub-Committee of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI).

The group also discussed the prioritisation of population groups for vaccination, or, who gets it first.

Many feel that there is a growing consensus that the frontline healthcare workers should be given the first shots.

While the expert group looked at the financial resources required for procuring the vaccine and various options for financing the scheme, no commitments have been made so far to any indigenous vaccine maker.

Meanwhile, India has decided to leverage its manufacturing capabilities to supply the vaccine to the world.

“India has also decided to leverage its domestic research and development as well as manufacturing capacities to supply the vaccine to ‘key’ neighbours as well as low- and medium-income countries.

"This was deliberated in today’s meeting and we are sending a signal to the global organisations like the World Health Organization (WHO) that India cannot be ignored in the process of Covid-19 vaccine development and scaling up of manufacturing,” an official said.

Global experts have said that India will play a crucial role in ensuring the world gets supplies of Covid-19 vaccine.

Speaking at a recent seminar of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on vaccines, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a leading infectious diseases expert, had said India’s private sector would have a “very important role” to play in the global battle against Covid-19.

Companies like Pune’s Serum Institute of India have already joined Covax - Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access - an initiative by the WHO and have partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, to supply vaccines to low- and medium-income countries.

The race

Hyderabad’s Bharat Biotech and Ahmedabad’s Zydus Cadila are both in phase-2 trials of their respective candidates while Serum Institute is all set to start trials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

“Available options in terms of delivery platforms, cold chain and associated infrastructure for roll out of Covid-19 vaccination were also taken up,” the government said.

Photograph: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

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Sohini Das in Mumbai
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