Wednesday, July 6, 2022

India’s Covid-19 vaccination drive achieves 1 billion mark milestone

India’s Covid-19 vaccination drive has achieved a historic milestone of
administering 1 billion vaccine doses. Around 75% of the eligible population (18+)
has been given the first dose, while around 30% has been given both doses.
India has achieved this mark of 1 billion vaccine doses in less than 40 weeks. This
milestone exemplifies India’s prowess in various elements in the vaccination
journey – development of new vaccines, production of vaccines, deployment, and
technology.
India’s Covid-19 vaccination drive was launched on 16January 2021. But
preparations had begun way back in April 2020 with the establishment of the
National Task Force for Focused Research on Corona Vaccine. Indeed, a hallmark
of India’s vaccination drive has been the high level oversight and coordination,
particularly by the Prime Minister himself.
India prioritized vaccine development and launched ‘Mission Covid Suraksha’ to
provide financial and technical support to indigenous vaccine manufacturers. This
Mission is the force behind the world’s first DNA-based COVID vaccine Zycov-D,
developed by Zydus Cadila, which will facilitate vaccination of children above 12
years. The Mission also supported the capacity development of Bharat Biotech
and provided support for infrastructure and technology development for other
public sector manufacturers.
Today, India is the only country that has developed multiple vaccines across
multiple platforms (Bharat Biotech’s COVAXIN uses an inactivated virus platform,
Zycov-D is a DNA vaccine, Covishield a viral vector vaccine, Gennova is in the
running for being India’s first mRNA vaccine).
For vaccine deployment and delivery, a comprehensive system of planning and
implementation was put in place. Besides the National Task Force for Focused
Research on Corona Vaccine, several expert advisory groups were set up at the
highest level, including the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for
Covid-19 (NEGVAC) in August 2020, the Empowered Group on Vaccine
Administration for Covid-19 (EGVAC) in January 2021, and the National Technical
Advisory Group for Immunization (NTAGI) Working Group. India’s vaccination
drive roll out was backed by recommendations of these expert groups.

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The National Covid Vaccination Programme initially targeted the healthcare and
frontline workers as well as senior citizens, due to their higher risk perception.
Subsequently, the Programme was rolled out to include people above 45 years of
age and with co-morbidities and later, all citizens above 45 years were included.
In the ongoing phase, all adults above 18 years have been included and
vaccination is being provided for free at public vaccination facilities. This implies
about 940 million people have to be vaccinated with two doses each.
On the approval of Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), three vaccines have
been utilized in the Programme (COVISHIELD developed by Serum Institute of
India in collaboration with Astra Zeneca of the United Kingdom, COVAXIN of
Bharat Biotech International Limited and SPUTNIK V of Russia).
Nearly all of the 1 billion doses administered have been Made-in-India, except for
a miniscule proportion of Sputnik V (approximately 0.4 million doses).
A critical contribution to India’s successful vaccination journey has the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP). The cold chain 2 system of UIP was leveraged and upscaled. Vaccines were stored at about 29,000 cold storage points and delivered across the country in more than 700 temperature controlled vehicles.

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