Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a meeting on Saturday to review arrangements for the delivery and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine – when one is made available. The Prime Minister called for “speedy access” to the vaccine for all members of the population and directed officials to keep in mind the “geographical span and diversity of the country” when planning logistics.
According to a statement by the government, the Prime Minister said every step in the distribution process had to be rigorously tested, and that this process had to include planning for cold storage of vaccine doses, mechanisms to monitor vaccination clinics, and the preparation and stockpiling of ancillary equipment like syringes.
A National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) is working in consultation with states and UTs, as well as all relevant stakeholders, to prepare a detailed blueprint for the storage, distribution and administration of the Covid vaccine, the government said.
The Prime Minister pointed to India’s successful conduct of national elections and disaster management programmes and suggested that officials apply learnings from these exercises to plan for the distribution and administration of the Covid vaccine.
This is the second such meeting the Prime Minister has led in the past 48 hours and comes after the Health Ministry reported an “unprecedented” achievement this morning – that active Covid cases in the country dropped below eight lakh for the first time in 46 days.
The Prime Minister focused on vaccine delivery in Thursday’s meeting as well, taking stock of the Health Ministry’s mechanisms for adequate procurement, and technologies for stockpiling of vaccine doses.
Three potential vaccines are in advanced stages of development in India, of which two are in Phase II and the other – Covishield, which was developed jointly by the University of Oxford and pharma giant AstraZeneca – is in Phase III.
Last month hospitals in Mumbai and Pune began advanced human trials of Covishield, which (if proven successful) will be manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume.
At today’s meeting the Prime Minister also appealed to people to ensure that social distancing is maintained at all times when in public and asked that restraint be maintained, particularly during the forthcoming festive season.
The Prime Minister cautioned against complacency as the number of cases in India begin to decline and asked everyone concerned to keep up their efforts to contain the pandemic.
India has logged over 74 lakh coronavirus cases since the pandemic began in China’s Wuhan in December last year. Of these, 1.13 lakh are deaths linked to the virus and around 65.2 lakh are recoveries.