India’s vaccine drive: A snapshot

July 9, 2021 0 By S Harachand

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a nationwide vaccination drive on Jan 16 this year, soon after emergency use authorisations (EUA) were issued to Covishield and Covaxin.

Healthcare workers at the frontline of India’s COVID-19 battle received the first jabs.

This was followed by the second phase of the vaccination drive from March 1, in which everyone above 60 years of age and those over 45 years with comorbidities started getting the vaccine.

From April 1, vaccination was opened for everyone above the age of 45 with or without comorbidities.

The third phase of the vaccination drive — including adults in the 18-44 age group — was kicked off on May 1.
Alongside, the central government ‘liberalised’ the vaccination drive to allow states, private hospitals, and industrial establishments to procure doses directly from manufacturers.

Registration on the COVID Vaccine Intelligence Network (CoWIN) portal developed by the ministry of health for the third phase began on April 28 and is mandatory for the 18-44 age group.

In between, the government revised the gap between the two doses for the Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, from 6 weeks to 12-16 weeks. However, the interval for the second dose of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin remained unchanged at 4 weeks.

As of Jun 20, 2021, India had administered 27.4 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccines, including to the 4.9 crore who had received both doses. With this, 3.7% of the country’s population were fully vaccinated and 22.5 crore adults were partially vaccinated, as they had received only one dose. This represented 16.5% of the Indian population.

In a rare, televised address — especially since the second wave began in April — PM Modi declared that the central government would help all 900 million adults in India get free vaccines, a reversal of his earlier policy.

Shifting policy

Initially, under the National COVID Vaccination Programme, Government of India procured vaccine doses and provided them free of cost to state governments, and state governments were asked to administer vaccination free of cost to priority groups.

Private hospitals were also enlisted to increase the pace of vaccination, where individuals could also choose to get vaccinated at a prescribed rate.

From May 1, the central government reduced its procurement to 50 percent of the vaccine produced and continued to provide these to the states free of cost.

State governments and private hospitals were asked to directly procure from the remaining 50 percent.

Direct procurement by individual states resulted in a chaotic competition as vaccine supplies were limited.

Many states were facing difficulties in managing the funding, procurement, and logistics of vaccine supplies, which impacted the pace of National COVID Vaccination Program.

“Keeping in view these aspects and the repeated requests received from states, the Guidelines for National COVID Vaccination Program were reviewed and revised, and new guidelines were issued on 8 June,” the health ministry said.

Now, the central government procures 75 percent of the vaccines produced by manufacturers in the country.