Chairing a meeting to review the Covid-19 pandemic and preparedness of vaccine delivery, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said that to ensure speedy access to the vaccine, the delivery system could learn from the successful conduct of elections and disaster management. A statement issued by the government quoted the PM as saying that given the geographical span and diversity of the country, speedy access to the vaccine should be ensured.
“He further directed that we should make use of the experience of the successful conduct of elections and disaster management in the country. The Prime Minister said that in a similar manner, vaccine delivery and administration systems should be put in place. This should involve the participation of States/ UTs/ District Level functionaries, civil society organisations, volunteers, citizens, and experts from all necessary domains,” the statement said.
The meeting was attended by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Principal Secretary to PM, Member (Health) NITI Aayog, Principal Scientific Advisor, senior scientists, officers of the PMO, and officials from various other departments. The suggestion by the Prime Minister comes even as the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 is working closely with states on prioritisation and distribution once a potential vaccine is made available.
The government had previously estimated that it is likely to receive and utilise 400-500 million doses of Covid vaccine and that as many as 25 crore individuals could be vaccinated by July 2021.
“The Prime Minister stressed that every step in the logistics, delivery, and administration should be put in place rigorously. It must include advanced planning of cold storage chains, distribution network, monitoring mechanism, advance assessment, and preparation of ancillary equipment required, such as vials, syringes,” the government statement said.
The Indian Express had earlier reported that the expert group has begun to map cold chain storage facilities across the country, including those available with the food processing industry and those outside of the 16,000 cold chain storages available with the government’s universal immunisation programme.
The Prime Minister is also learnt to have underlined the use of a strong IT backbone for vaccine administration.
The Indian Express had reported that the expert group has held detailed deliberations on modifying existing technology platforms to track potential vaccines from procurement to last-mile delivery. The expert group is currently working on upgrading eVIN (Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network), an existing indigenously developed technology that tracks vaccine stocks digitally.
States have now been directed to ensure that the standard stock and distribution registers should be in place and used along with eVIN.
During the meeting, the experts also informed that two pan-India studies on the genome of SARSCoV-2 (the Covid-19 virus) in India, conducted by ICMR and Department of Bio-Technology, suggested that the virus is genetically stable with no major mutation.
The government statement said three vaccines are in advanced stages of development in India, of which two are in Phase II and one is in Phase III. The statement further said that Indian scientists and research teams are collaborating and strengthening the research capacities in neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
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