Bangalore Airport employees transfer cardboard boxes of vials of Covishield vaccine developed by the Serum Institute of India on January 12, 2021 in Bangalore, India.
Stringer | Xinhua | Getty Images
SINGAPORE – India is preparing for one of the largest mass vaccination exercises in the world starting Saturday.
The South Asian country plans to vaccinate around 300 million peopleor more than 20% of the 1.3 billion population against Covid-19 in the first phase of the exercise.
Indian airlines have started delivering the first doses of vaccine to Delhi and other major cities, including Kolkata, Ahmedabad and the Bengaluru Technology Center. The Minister of Civil Aviation, Hardeep Singh Puri, announced earlier this week.
Priority for the recordings is given to healthcare and other frontline workers – an estimated 30 million people. That would be followed by people over the age of 50 and other younger people at high risk.
The rollout will involve close cooperation between central government and states.
India has also developed a digital portal called Co-WIN Vaccine Delivery Management System. According to the Ministry of Health, real-time information is provided on “vaccine stocks, their storage temperature and individual tracking of the beneficiaries”.
“India’s vaccine manufacturing expertise and experience with mass immunization campaigns have prepared it well for Phase 1 vaccinations due to begin this weekend,” Akhil Bery, South Asia analyst with Eurasia Group, wrote in a report this week .
“India has a long history of vaccination campaigns, including its universal immunization program that vaccinates 55 million a year, and will rely on that expertise in distributing coronavirus vaccines,” he added.
India’s drug regulator has approved the restricted use of two coronavirus vaccines in emergency situations, both of which will be delivered to the various vaccination centers before Saturday.
One of them is a vaccine developed by the Anglo-Swedish company AstraZeneca and Oxford University, made domestically by the Serum Institute of India (SII) and known locally as Covishield.
Another vaccine was called Covaxin Developed domestically by India’s Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian State Medical Research Council. Emergency clearance has been granted as clinical trials continue.
Covaxin’s approval has reportedly been criticized by some as the regulator gave the green light shortly after asking Bharat Biotech for further analysis.
India’s health minister said on Tuesday The Indian government has signed procurement agreements for 11 million cans of Covishield at Rs 200 Indian rupees ($ 2.74) per dose and 5.5 million doses of Covaxin at an average cost of Rs 206 per shot, which is likely cheaper than what it will cost in the private market.
Several other candidates, including a second domestically developed vaccine from Zydus Cadila, are currently in clinical testing.
India currently has more than 10.5 million reported coronavirus cases, second only to the US. According to the Johns Hopkins University, more than 151,000 people have died of Covid-19 in India. However, figures reported daily show that the number of cases of active infections is decreasing.
South Asia’s largest country is also the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines and is believed to produce around 60% of all vaccines sold worldwide.
As a result, India’s production of Covid vaccines is expected to play an important role in global vaccination against the disease.
Eurasia Group’s Bery said that despite the government’s optimism, two major risks could potentially slow the launch of the vaccination campaign.
“First, vaccine production capacity will be limited even in best-case scenarios,” he said, adding that if local vaccine manufacturers cannot produce the 600 million doses needed to vaccinate the first 300 million people, “India’s vaccination schedule – and the export of vaccines to other countries could be significantly delayed. “
The second risk is that India’s vaccination campaign is heavily dependent on state governments, “whose capacities and expertise vary widely,” Bery said. “Effective coordination between central and state governments is required, which has not been the strength of (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi.”