Tracking of the vaccination process will focus on last mile delivery. Some experts believe that India may have a vaccine by December.


New Delhi: Even as trials for a Covid-19 vaccine are underway in India, the government has set in motion the process to chalk out a detailed strategy to ensure its smooth distribution once it is ready. Though there is no clarity on the timeline when the vaccine will be released, some experts believe that India may have a vaccine by December.

An expert panel, tasked with drafting a roadmap for the purpose, has decided that all procurements will be done Centrally and that each consignment will be tracked real-time to ensure last mile delivery. The panel has advised all the states not to chart separate pathways for procurement.

The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 met for the first time this week to deliberate on the conceptualisation and implementation mechanisms, including the creation of a digital infrastructure for inventory management and delivery mechanism of the vaccine, and tracking of the vaccination process with particular focus on last mile delivery. It discussed the issues of procuring, financing and distributing the vaccine for mass immunisation as and when it is ready.

The meeting, chaired by Dr V.K. Paul, Member, Niti Aayog, along with Secretary (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare) Rajesh Bhushan as co-Chair, comes in the backdrop of Russia claiming development of the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine, named “Sputnik V”. However, there is not much excitement about it in India or the world as several apprehensions exist about Russia’s claims.

India, it is to be noted, is at the forefront of the process to make the vaccine. All over the world, there are more than 140 candidate vaccines to cure Covid-19 infection, under various stages of development. Out of them, 11 vaccine candidates have entered the human trial phase. Of the 11, there are two Indian vaccine candidates—“Covaxin”, developed by the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Limited in collaboration with the ICMR and the National Institute of Virology (NIV), and “ZyCov-D” vaccine by Zydus Cadila.

The meeting discussed the broad parameters guiding the selection of the vaccine candidates for the country and sought inputs from the standing technical sub-committee of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI). The group discussed the procurement mechanisms for the vaccine, including both indigenous and international manufacturing, along with guiding principles for prioritization of population groups for vaccination.

The expert group also discussed the financial resources required for procurement of Covid-19 vaccine and various options of financing the same. Available options in terms of delivery platforms, cold chain and associated infrastructure for the rollout of Covid-19 vaccination were also taken up.

“A strategy and follow-up action on all possible scenarios to ensure equitable and transparent delivery of vaccine was deliberated upon. Issues related to vaccine safety and surveillance were taken up and strategies for community involvement through transparent information and awareness creation were discussed,” according to information provided by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

India’s support to its key neighbours and development partner countries for Covid-19 vaccines was also deliberated upon. The expert group discussed that India will leverage domestic vaccine manufacturing capacity and will also engage with all international players for early delivery of vaccines not only in India, but also in low and middle-income countries.