At its first meeting on Wednesday, the National Expert Group on vaccine administration for Covid-19 held detailed deliberations on modifying existing technology platforms to track potential vaccines from procurement to last-mile delivery.
Sources told The Indian Express that talks were held on building a digital infrastructure so that a potential vaccine, from the several being developed, can be administered to a large population. Specifically, sources said, there was a discussion on upgrading the existing eVIN (Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network) — an indigenously developed technology that tracks vaccine stocks digitally.
Sources said a decision was also taken that the Centre would handle procurement of the vaccines. “States must desist from investing time and money into the procurement process. The high-powered committee will be doing it in a centralised manner,” a source said.
About talks on building a digital platform for Covid-19 vaccines, the source said, “We may have facility-based administration of the vaccine or we may, in all probability, have a mechanism for administration of the vaccine at the sub-facility-level because the population to cover is big. Therefore, we need an IT system to track the vaccine from the stage it is procured, ensure temperature parameters are met in storage, as well as monitor cold chain requirements and transportation of the vaccine on a real-time basis.”
Work is already on to modify existing platforms, including e-VIN, used by the government to track vaccines. “This platform has to be built up,” the source said.
Another issue discussed at Wednesday’s meeting was positioning India as a global player on the vaccine front, by leveraging its vaccine manufacturing as well as research and development facilities. The idea was to project that “India could provide a vaccine not only to its own population but also to its key partners in the neighbourhood, and to low and middle-income group countries”, the source said. “We will engage with all important international players, the WHO, GAVI (an international alliance for vaccines against infectious diseases), etc.”
The meeting also discussed “financial projections” on procurement of Covid-19 vaccines. However, the talks were preliminary, the source said, given that certain vaccines are double-dose vaccines and some single-dose, and that there are multiple vaccine candidates right now.
In a statement, the government said the meeting had discussed issues related to vaccine safety and surveillance, and measures to ensure equitable and transparent delivery and to involve the community in creating awareness once a vaccine is available.
The Indian Express had reported earlier that the National Expert Group would also look at mechanisms to track specific high-risk groups such as healthcare workers, the elderly and individuals with comorbidites, who are likely to be the first to be administered the vaccines.
Wednesday’s meeting was chaired by Dr V K Paul, Member, NITI Aayog, with Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), as co-chair. Others present included top scientists from outside the government, specialists from premier government research institutes, and Secretaries of Commerce, Finance and External Affairs Ministries.
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