Bangalore airport workers transfer carton boxes of vials with Covishield vaccine developed by Serum Institute of India in Bangalore, India, January 12, 2021.
Stringer | Xinhua | Getty Images
SINGAPORE – India is preparing for one of the biggest mass vaccination drills in the world starting on Saturday.
The South Asian country plans to inoculate approx. 300 million people or more than 20% of its 1
Indian airlines have started delivering the first doses of vaccines to Delhi and other major cities including Kolkata, Ahmedabad and technology hub Bengaluru, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted earlier this week.
The priorities for the shots will be given to health care and other frontline workers – an estimated 30 million people. This would be followed by people over the age of 50 and other younger people at high risk.
The roll-out will involve close cooperation between the central government and the states.
India has also developed a digital portal called the Co-WIN Vaccine Delivery Management System. It will provide real-time information on “vaccine stocks, their storage temperature and individualized tracking of beneficiaries” according to the Ministry of Health.
“India’s expertise in vaccine production and experience with mass vaccination campaigns has prepared well for ‘Phase 1’ vaccinations to start this weekend,” Akhil Bery, South Asia analyst at Eurasia Group, wrote in a report this week.
“India has a long history of immunization campaigns, including its universal immunization program, which inoculates 55 million a year, and will rely on this expertise to distribute coronavirus vaccines,” he added.
India’s drug regulator has approved limited use of two coronavirus vaccines in emergencies, both of which will be delivered to the various vaccination centers by Saturday.
One of them is a vaccine developed by the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca and Oxford University, produced domestically by the Serum Institute of India (SII) and known locally as Covishield.
Another vaccine, called Covaxin, was developed domestic by India’s Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the state Indian Council of Medical Research. It was approved for emergency use when clinical trials continue.
The approval of Covaxin was reportedly criticized by some as the regulator gave the green light shortly after asking Bharat Biotech for more analysis.
India’s health secretary said on Tuesday that the Indian government had signed purchase agreements for 11 million doses of Covishield for 200 Indian rupees ($ 2.74) per liter. Dosage and 5.5 million doses of Covaxin at an average cost of 206 rupees per day. shots, which are likely to be cheaper than what they will cost in the private market.
Several other candidates, including another domestically developed vaccine of Zydus Cadila, are undergoing clinical trials.
India currently has more than 10.5 million reported cases of coronavirus, second only to the United States. More than 151,000 people have died from Covid-19 in India, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. However, daily reported figures show that the number of cases of active infection is declining.
South Asia’s largest country is also the world’s largest vaccine producer and is said to produce approx. 60% of all vaccines sold globally.
As such, India’s production of Covid vaccines is expected to play an important role in global immunization drives against the disease.
Eurasia Groups Bery said that despite the government’s optimism, two key risks could possibly slow down the implementation of the vaccination campaign.
“Firstly, vaccine production capacity will be limited even at best,” he said, adding that if local vaccine manufacturers could not produce the 600 million doses required to inoculate the initial 300 million people, then “India’s vaccination timeline – and its exports of vaccines to other countries – could be significantly delayed. “
The second risk is that India’s vaccine campaign will be heavily dependent on state governments, “whose capacity and expertise vary widely,” Bery said. “There is a need for effective coordination between central and state governments, something that has not been (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi’s strengths.”