New Delhi, September 21: The vaccine against COVID-19, considered as the ultimate silver bullet to end the pandemic, is awaited by countries across the world. The yearning for a vaccine is growing in India as the country is now reporting the highest daily spike in COVID-19 cases. With a few months remaining before the likely vaccine launch, the government is expected to formalise the distribution strategy. COVID-19 Vaccine For Everyone Not Possible Before 2024, Says Serum Institute of India Chief Adar Poonawalla.
How Will India Distribute COVID-19 Vaccine Once Developed?
With a country of 1.3 billion, a concerted plan is required to enable all sections of the populace to be vaccinated. The focus of the government will be to develop a supply chain that can take the vaccine to the remotest parts of the nation, including the Ladakh belt of Himalayas and the villages of India's Northeast.
For the purpose of vaccine storage, supply and digital-tracking, the government is relying on the Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN) system. This was informed to the Parliament on Sunday by the Health Ministry.
Minister of State for Health Ashwini Kumar Choubey, while responding to a question on whether the government has formed a strategy for vaccine distribution, said eVIN under the Universal Immunisation Program (UIP) would play a crucial role in this regard.
Notably, the eVIN is an internet-based digital system to track routine immunisation, vaccine stocks, storage temperature in about 25,000 dedicated cold chain storage points across the country as well as movement of vaccine.
Ahead of Choubey's reply, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had informed the nation that the government expects a vaccine to be rolled out by early 2021.
"Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's guidance, an expert group is looking at it and there is advanced planning in place," the Minister said, adding that adequate period of time would be needed to make the vaccine available in large stocks for the purpose of mass vaccination.
PM Modi, during his Independence Day speech last month, had issued a similar assurance to the nation. "All preparations have been made. Mass production (of the vaccine) will begin once scientists give their nod. A roadmap is ready to ensure it reaches everyone in India in the shortest possible time," he had said.
Will The Release of Vaccine End Coronavirus?
As Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had noted, making the vaccine available to all sections of the populace would require sufficient amount of time. In the initial phase, it is expected that the government will attempt vaccinating those at the frontline, those aged above 65 and persons suffering from co-morbidities.
According to experts, India may be able to conduct mass vaccination by late 2021. However, industry leaders have sounded a note of caution. Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of world's largest vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India, claimed that it would be difficult to vaccinate each individual on this planet "before 2024".
To conclude, the roll-out of vaccine will be the first major step towards ending the pandemic. But the process of vaccination will continue over a considerable period of time, that may stretch from a few months to a couple of years.
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Sep 21, 2020 04:26 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).