COVID-19 pandemic over a period of last 18 months has ravaged the world with the first and. second waves. Since beginning the worldwide focus was to develop vaccine against the virus which was being considered as the most viable means to overcome this pandemic. In the next few paragraphs let’s take review of vaccination in India, its magnitude, economic burden, administrative challenges and expected time.
Vaccine development and available options
- Sputnik V
- Zycov D
Two vaccines received approval for emergency use in India at the onset of the programme; Covishield – a brand of the Oxford – AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, and Covaxin, which was developed by Bharat Biotech. In April 2021, the Indian government approved the Russian Sputnik V vaccine (which is distributed locally by Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories) as a third vaccine, which began its use in May 2021 with the onset of the third phase.
India’s vaccination policy
India’s vaccination program began on January 16.
The first phase of the rollout involved health workers and frontline workers including police, paramilitary forces, sanitation workers, and disaster management volunteers.
The second phase rolled out on March 1st. It covered all residents over the age of 60, residents between the ages of 45 and 60 with one or more qualifying comorbidities, and any health care or frontline worker that did not receive a dose during phase 1.
The third phase began on May 1. This phase covers the adult population (18–44yrs).
The Centre has announced a target of inoculating the country’s 940 million adult population by December 31. This means vaccinating 900 million people from June onwards at the rate of 8.4 million daily that is triple the current rate of 2.7 million.
Since this announcement the government has placed orders for 25 crore doses of Covishield with the Serum Institute of India and 19 crore doses of Covaxin with Bharat Biotech Ltd, giving both of them 30% advance payment. The supply of this stock should begin from August onwards.
In addition, the government is expected to place orders for another 25 crore doses of Covishield and an additional 20 crore doses of Covaxin later this year.
The government is also expected to purchase close to 15 crore doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine which will be available by August.
The central government has also paid Rs.1500 crore in advance to purchase 30 crore doses of Corbevax which is produced by the Hyderabad based Biological E.
The government is also planning to get 5 crore doses of Zycov D (which is produced by Zydus Cadillac) before December.
Thus this is a roadmap on how the government will inoculate the entire 93–94 crore population above 18 years against COVID-19 by year-end. Around 5.46 crore people have been fully vaccinated until now, in an attempt to vaccine the rest of the adult population the government has planned to procure the above 135 crore doses in the span of. August-December from five manufacturers.
Economic Parameters Of Vaccination
Government of India in its annual budget has allocated 35,000 crore for the COVID-19 vaccinations.
In the first phase, SII received nearly ₹160 per dose for Covishield while Bharat biotech’s Covaxin was procured at ₹210 per dose. Though the Indian vaccine manufacturers now are seeking revision of these prices as they are considered unsustainable in the long run. Now since the government would be procuring 75% of the vaccine, the cost of Covishield and covaxin vaccines based on the above rates for the estimated quantity of vaccine on order as depicted in table1.1 works out to be around ₹12,300 crores. As for Sputnik V whose price is currently capped at ₹995 per dose, will cost around ₹7,500 crore for the estimated quantity of vaccine as depicted in table 1.1
Also the government announced prices for vaccines for private sector, deciding maximum price for Serum Institute of India’s Covishield at ₹780 per dose, Bharat’s biotech’s Covaxin at ₹1410 per dose and Russia’s Sputnik for ₹1145 per dose. The corporates / individuals would be taking the burden of vaccination of 25% at the estimated cost of Rs 27,000 crore.
As stated before ₹ 1,500 crore has also been paid in advance to purchase 300 million of Corbevax. Apart from these four vaccines the government is also in talks with other pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson, who have successfully launched COVID vaccines in the US, UK and Europe.
Administration Of Vaccination
To implement these strategies in an organised and smooth manner is also a challenge of its own. Till date the estimated rate to achieve the target of vaccinating the whole adult population by December 31 seems like an impossible task. Apart from the hurdle of mobilising the health infrastructure of the country to inject the numbers required to meet the target, the non availability vaccines is also posing a limitation in stepping up the vaccination rate.
Though, all states and municipal authorities are planning different patterns to ease the vaccination drive for the people while offering the jab centres close to their homes. Private hospitals are also offering vaccination plans. The drive is also backed with the COWIN app. This app has made possible registration, exact status of vaccination of people and also shows when and where the vaccine is available at all India level. Thus the technology tool is aiding the administration of vaccines as well.