A Covid vaccine could soon become a reality. The world is now gearing up for a rollout and working on developing infrastructure that serves the purpose to inoculate 7.5 billion people spread across seven continents. Anticipated to be the largest and fastest operation ever undertaken of vaccine production, procurement, and distribution, the momentous task requires proper strategy and a mechanism to save lives. While several countries lack this experience, India holds a distinction in the channelisation of a vaccine to its population, reminding the world about its success story of polio and tuberculosis.
India, the seventh-largest country in the world, is home to nearly 1.30 billion people -- the second highest after China’s 1.4 billion. When the Covid outbreak started, it was speculated that India wouldn’t be able to handle the crisis, but its battle against coronavirus and efforts have set an example for the world. The world is appreciating India’s quick action. Now the scientists have inched closer to creating a Covid vaccine, the world has set its eyes on India again to study how it will undertake the massive exercise.
The Polio Success Story
When it comes to vaccine distribution, India has an incentive of handling the chain of supply and identifying the population in the need. The Southeast Asian country has successfully eradicated polio and TB by reaching every nook and corner of the country in a record time. India's polio vaccine strategy is widely acknowledged by the world and often finds a reference that how the country with such a vast population worked tactfully with several agencies at different levels to deliver a shot.
Daunting Task, But Not Impossible
While the task to reach out to 7 billion population will surely be momentous and full of challenges, proper planning and coordination could help in accomplishing the mission in a record time. Countries are already rewriting the playbook as scientists work to develop a vaccine, so is India.
According to Union Health minister Harsh Vardhan, the government has set a target to inoculate 30 crore people in the country by August 2021 which is more than the population of as many as 192 countries. Only India, China, and the United States have a population of more than 30 crore with America being home to 32 crore people. So, the world has set its eyes on India's plan and is taking lessons from the country’s polio programme to develop a strategy that could help in saving human lives.
Notably, India's micro-plans for its polio strategy have been getting attention from the world. The World Health Organisation has also cited India's success story in eradicating polio to say that it could come a handy while rolling out the Covid vaccine. Back in October, Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the Regional Director of the WHO South-East Asia Region, said that strategies from the polio eradication programme, polio networks could help strengthen core public health response measures.
Although India has a rich experience in distributing a vaccine to its people in the form of polio and TB, the government is working tirelessly to ramp up the infrastructure to bolster the system. From coordination at the national, state, district, and block levels, to training people and developing laboratories, India has a network with vast knowledge on vaccination to reach the unreached and the most vulnerable. It is something that could play a critical role in Covid vaccination.
Dayanand Jadhav, executive president of Triratna Prerana, a Mumbai-based NGO working on community toilets, said that working on grassroots level with organisations like UNICEF and others will play a key role. He said that India has already worked in the sector with its polio vaccine eradication programmes and achieved results. "By bringing volunteers and experts under one umbrella and a well-coordinated strategy will surely help in writing another success story," he said.
The government has time and again said that it is determined how best to distribute the vaccines. New Delhi is already working with vaccine makers and partners to speed up clinical trials and regulatory approvals.
Anand K, CEO, SRL Diagnostics, said that the task to distribute vaccines in a diverse geographical terrain like India would be a momentous challenge. One of the elements to make this a success would be adopting a cohesive approach and collaboration between country leaders, corporations, NGOs, public servants, and the private sector.
"From the country’s previous experience with Polio and TB, India can develop and establish protocols to ensure the availability of the vaccine to the entire population in a cost-effective manner. Large private diagnostics players can play an important role in this by leveraging their vast network across the country, an established cold-chain network, and an already trained work-force. Creating awareness, trust, and curbing misinformation through collaboration with local influencers and leaders would also be vital,” he said.
Another factor that makes India a topic for study is the fact that the Southeast Asian country is home to major manufacturers of vaccines that are distributed worldwide. According to an estimate, India fulfils nearly 60 per cent needs of developing countries. These countries are looking towards India to meet their requirements and also develop their strategy on a similar line.
India - The World's Vaccine Hub
Several Indian pharmaceuticals have already said that they will begin the production and bolster the supply chain as soon as a vaccine is approved. The government has also said that it will allow the manufacturers to export some of their supplies. Notably, the Pune-based Serum Institute of India is the world's largest vaccine maker. It has an agreement to manufacture one billion doses of a vaccine that are currently being developed by the US and UK scientists.
If all works well, the SII will be one of the largest manufacturers of a Covid vaccine in the world.
Going by the statistics, it wouldn't be wrong to say that the world minus India can't think about getting Covid vaccines to save the mankind.