Post Mortem

India’s success story

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 2/14/2021 12:57:26 PM IST

 A country that is the largest supplier of generic drugs in the world and meets over 50 per cent of the global demand for vaccines need not prove its prowess in the field of pharmaceutical. The recent drive to successfully produce COVID-19 vaccines for shielding over 130 crore population from the virus has served as a reminder of what India is really capable of. Notably, the operative word here is ‘shielding’ and not ‘inoculating’, in wake of the fact that not all of the population has to take the jab. But even a reduced count in India implies enormous numbers by any calculation. 

No doubt, such a mammoth exercise has prompted scaling up of manufacturing of COVID vaccines. Both the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech have ramped up the production of their respective vaccines at a frenzied pace. The SII, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer in terms of the number of doses, is producing 50 to 60 million doses of Covishield per month while already having built up an inventory of around 80 million doses.

 With an existing universal immunisation programme that covers nearly 27 million infants and 30 million pregnant women annually, the country already has a vast vaccination network and infrastructure in place.  The colossal manufacturing operation has been suitably backed with an extensive country-wide logistics, transportation, distribution and storage exercise involving considerable infrastructure and personnel. When added to 37 State vaccine stores which have been identified, as many as 41 destinations in total have been earmarked for the delivery of COVID vaccines across the country.

In light of storage being a critical part of the whole exercise with extremely low temperature being a primary prerequisite for storing the vaccine, as many as 29,000 cold chain points, 45,000 ice-lined refrigerators, 41,000 deep freezers, 240 walk-in coolers, 70 walk-in freezers and 300 solar refrigerators are to be used for the safe storage of the Coronavirus vaccines.

In order to carry out a smooth and foolproof operation of such magnitude, the Government has in the last few months trained around 1.7 lakh vaccinators and 3 lakh vaccination team members on the processes that need to be followed during the drive. Some of these processes would entail verification of beneficiaries, actual vaccination, cold chain and logistics management, bio-medical waste management, adverse event following immunisation (AEFI) management and updating on COVID-19 Vaccine Intelligence Network (CoWIN) system, the specially created digital platform to monitor and run the whole programme.

With the authorities setting their sights on inoculating as many as 30 crore people in the first phase itself — equivalent to nearly the entire US population, the country with most COVID fatalities in the world — is not a modest ambition by any stretch of imagination.  Before various vaccines showed up on the horizon, no one should forget the help that India extended to other countries in terms of COVID-related drugs, aid, information and knowledge transfer. Inspired by the SII and Bharat Biotech, more vaccines will likely receive approvals and Indian vaccines are expected to make their mark. This means that the world will have more valuable low-cost options, thanks to India.

Gurpreet Sandhu, President, Council for Healthcare 

and Pharma, and founder, Reva Pharma.

(The views expressed are personal.)

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