The Scenario of COVID vaccination in India

Beginning from the 16th of January 2021, the immunization program in India unfolded in several phases. One crore healthcare workers, two crore frontline and municipal workers, and the elderly people were some of the first groups to get the vaccine. The number of people eligible for the first phase of vaccination itself was greater than the entire population of many countries.
The announcement of the vaccination program was followed by a meeting held by the honorable Prime minister to review the pandemic situation and also to discuss and analyze the preparedness of all the states and union territories so that smooth and effective vaccine rollout is ensured. The registration for getting a vaccine was made available through the CoWin website which would help all the people by providing real-time information about vaccine stocks and slot availability.

The Health Ministry has given a blueprint for how 1.08 billion people, with 2.16 billion doses, will get vaccinated before December 2021, in what is called the largest immunization program in the world against the virus. While the beginning of this vaccination drive in one of the world’s worst-hit countries has come as positive news to many, there are several challenges on the way ahead. Supplying vaccines is one thing, convincing people to take them is another. India has so far given quite 100 million doses of two approved vaccines - Covishield and Covaxin. The approval of Sputnik V came as the country struggled to fight the devastating second wave of the pandemic.
Bharat Biotech, a 24-year-old vaccine maker, used a sample of the coronavirus, isolated by India's National Institute of Virology to make Covaxin. The two doses of Covaxin are given four weeks apart. The vaccine are often stored at 2°C to 8°C. Preliminary data from its phase 3 trial shows that the vaccine has an efficacy rate of 81%. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is being manufactured locally by the Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer. It says it's producing quite 60 million doses a month. The jab is run in two doses given between four and 12 weeks apart. It can be safely stored at temperatures of 2°C to 8°C .

The central government will be providing free covid-19 vaccines to all adults from 21st June, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on 7th June.In a revision of the government's Liberalized and Accelerated Phase-3 Strategy of Covid-19 Vaccination that started from 1stMay 2021, Prime Minister Modi said that the central government will now buy 75% of the vaccine producers' total production and provide it to the states free of cost.
Approximately 240 million total vaccine doses are administered in India till now. The state of Maharashtra tops the chart in having the most administered doses of the vaccine against the coronavirus (COVID-19) as of June 7, 2021. Over 19 million first doses and 4.7 million second doses have been administered in the state of Maharashtra. The International Monetary Fund earlier predicted that under the existing scenario of coronavirus vaccine supply, India will be able to inoculate almost all adults of the country by the end of december 2021 as stated by our honorable health minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan. The economic body predicted during a document released on May 19, detailing how a $50 billion investment plan could vaccinate all eligible adults across the planet by the center of 2022.

Vaccination might be a way we can fight against the virus, but for vaccination to be successful, India, with such a huge population, first needs to fight against the challenges that come along with it. One major aspect of this is the logistics available to serve such a huge population with limited resources. Distribution, transportation, and storage of vaccines require a comprehensive roadmap, in the absence of which acute vaccine shortage will be at the door. Planning and controlling the flow to the vaccination centers will continue to pose a greater challenge than the vaccinating costs according to experts, while mistrust, fueled by misinformation on social media, is another challenge for a population with a poor literacy rate. Early approval by the authorities without asserting the efficacy rate data is also a big concern, especially among the medical community, which has different opinions on the same matter.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that research is underway on developing a nasal spray as an alternate to the coronavirus vaccine. This nasal spray is being developed by Hyderabad- based renowned company “BHARAT BIOTECH”-the same company that developed Covaxin. The government stated that if this development turns out to be successful then it will give a major boost to India’s ongoing vaccination drive. The “intranasal vaccines” will minimize the virus load in the body as studies show that Covid-19 first establishes itself in the nasal cavity before spreading to other parts of the body. The biggest advantage of these nasal vaccines is that they are cost-effective. The chairman of Bharat Biotech said that if successful one drop of vaccine in each of the nostrils would be sufficient to reduce the effect of Covid-19.

The RNA-based vaccines with higher efficacy rates namely Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which are widely administered across the world are yet not available for the Indian Population. Even after the emergency approval by the Drugs Controller General of India(DCGI) for use of vaccines tested and used in the USA, UK, Germany, Japan, etc without actual clinical trials in India, Moderna and Pfizer are a long way to go. These vaccines require storage at temperatures around -80°C and particularly in India with scorching temperatures, poses a big challenge.

Arindam Pareek, Arnav Borkar

BITSMUN Research Team