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Confronting the COVID-19 vaccine execution challenge

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Pankaj Sindhu, Founder and CEO, VVP Healthcare Evolution lists the challenges of conducting smooth COVID-19 vaccination drive across the country and suggests that to ensure that the vaccination outreach is hastened, Government must look at creating collaborating opportunities with the private healthcare industry players

Well even those in their 70’s have gone back to their earliest memories and surfaced back from their long drawn memory lane with an ‘Ah, Alas, OMG’, to express the effect Corona pandemic has done to the entire world’s economy.

Preventive or curative was the trending discussion at the initial start of this pandemic which very soon jumped to the big question “who will make the vaccine” and when few intellectuals moved onto the vaccine invention, we started chattering “when will we receive the vaccine” and this curious mind never stops the chatter.

Now the next revolving chatter in my mind is, “How the vaccination will be done for this massive population of 135 crore, when our healthcare infrastructure is grappling on multiple fronts”. I am sure government and multiple other stakeholders are aggressively working on this front and we will have answers to this as well in time to come.

One thing is sure that the vaccine is going to be there in due course thereby resting part of our curious mind and allows a new thought to ponder on – the vaccine execution challenge that faces us big time now.

The challenge ahead

India is the world’s vaccine capital with respect to manufacturing as India manufactures world’s major share of vaccines, does this mean that India will have the largest share available for its own use – well the answer is No. The Indian vaccine manufacturers are having global contracts in place with commitments of providing majority vaccine to foreign countries.

When it comes to India, we are heading for a 135 crore population outreach for vaccination, which of course doesn’t mean everyone will be vaccinated but a large population will still need it.

It just cannot be done in a single phase given the large volumes to be handled and that too when our production capacities won’t be able to meet the humungous demands.

In simple terms, the vaccination drive will consume entire 2021 and maybe beyond 2021 as well, before we can say that significant majority has been vaccinated.

Vaccines are a cold chain product which means that it cannot be stored like many medicines on a pharmacy’s shelf, it needs certain cold controlled temperatures to ensure that they remain efficient.

It then needs a trained vaccine administrator which usually is a certified medical professional.

These elements create gross challenges and raise questions of smooth vaccination across the country in near visible timeline. To ensure that the vaccination outreach is hastened, Government must look at creating collaborating opportunities with the private healthcare industry players.

Healthcare in India is largely a self-pay market and private players have a significant majority when it comes to healthcare infrastructure in the country. It will be prudent for the Government to start looking at COVID vaccination as a joint responsibility along with the private players instead of shouldering the entire burden at its own end.

Who pays for the vaccine, government or consumers and when will I receive the vaccine; am I ahead in the queue or been pushed at the far end; is there a rationing policy in place, if yes, do I qualify – these are just few of the questions that every citizen of this country will have on their minds. And soon government will be asked these and many more such questions around vaccination.

Before this becomes another political stunt, a quick turnaround from Government will be much needed on a clear road ahead.

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