PM Modi reviews Health Ministry plan for vaccine distribution; but who will get it first?

Khristina Jacob
·4-min read
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during the celebrations after the victory in Bihar assembly election and by-election in other states at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters in New Delhi on November 11, 2020. (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP) (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during the celebrations after the victory in Bihar assembly election and by-election in other states at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters in New Delhi on November 11, 2020. (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP) (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a tweet, reassured the nation that strong measures are being put into place in order to solidify the vaccine distribution process in due course.

The PM, on Friday held a meeting to review the country's vaccination strategy in which important issues related to progress of COVID-19 vaccine development, regulatory approvals and procurement were discussed.

"Reviewed various issues like prioritisation of population groups, reaching out to HCWs (health care workers), cold-chain Infrastructure augmentation, adding vaccinators and tech platform for vaccine roll-out," he said.

In fact, a number of COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in advanced phases of trial.

On Friday, Haryana Health Minister Anil Vij was administered a trial dose of Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine 'Covaxin' at a hospital in Ambala. He had offered to be the first volunteer for the third phase trial of Covaxin, which started in the state today.

Who will get COVID-19 vaccine first? 'Meticulous plan in place,' says Harsh Vardhan

covid-19 coronavirus vaccination concept
covid-19 coronavirus vaccination concept

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan is not mincing words when it comes to the allocation and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the minister, everything is being decided by experts with a scientific point of view.

'We have made a very detailed meticulous plan on this,' he said. Addressing the FICCI FLO's National Webinar on 'The Shifting Healthcare Paradigm During and Post-COVID', Vardhan said coronavirus vaccine will be available in a couple of months and it is estimated that by July-August, 400-500 million vaccine doses will be made available for 25-30 crore people.

'What we would have to do in March-April next year, we have started planning for it from now only,' Vardhan said.

The minister said, 'We have also initiated an integrated response system against COVID-19 and will also host clinical trials for all the major vaccines. About 20 vaccines are in different stages of development.'

He said about 90-99% tackling of COVID-19 is only through protecting and motivating others.

'I am confident that the COVID-19 vaccine will be ready in the next three-four months,' he said.

'It is natural that the vaccine distribution would have to be prioritised,” he said.

Here’s how the vaccine (when we do get one) will be distributed:

  • Healthcare workers and corona warriors will be prioritised

  • Then, people who are above 65 years of age

  • Then, people from 50-65 years of age

  • Then, those below 50 years who have other diseases

  • Then, the general public

'You can protect yourself from this deadly virus with small precautions like wearing a good quality mask properly, maintaining social distance and taking care of hand-hygiene,' Vardhan noted.

What are the vaccines currently in the news?

  • Phase-3 trial of the Oxford vaccine of the Serum Institute is almost near completion

  • Phase-3 clinical trial of the indigenously-developed vaccine candidate of the Bharat Biotech has begun

  • Phase-3 clinical trial of the vaccine developed by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has already begun.

  • Dr Reddy's Laboratories will also soon start the combined phase 2 and 3 clinical trials of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, in India.

  • Biological E Limited has started early phase 1 and 2 human trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

  • Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE have said their vaccine candidate was found to be more than 95% effective in preventing COVID-19.

  • Moderna has said the independent National Institutes of Health-appointed Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) for the Phase 3 study of mRNA-1273, its vaccine candidate against COVID-19, found it to have an efficacy of 94.5%

What are the challenges involved in storing and deploying these vaccines?

  • Logistical challenges that include cold chain systems for proper transportation and storage during last mile delivery.

  • Adequate cold chain facilities to protect the vaccine against warmer temperatures.

  • Storage of vaccines as several vaccine candidates have varying requirements. For example, the Oxford vaccine developed by SII requires storage at 2-8 degree celsius. Pfizer vaccine requires storage at -70 degree celsius whereas Sputnik V has to be stored at temperature lower than -18 degree celsius during transportation.

With inputs from PTI and News18