COVID-19 vaccines in India are at risk of expiring while anxious senior citizens wait for their turn

COVID-19 vaccines in India are at risk of expiring while anxious senior citizens wait for their turn
BCCL
  • Only about half of the supplied vaccines that are slated to expire as early as May have been administered.
  • This has led to fears that precious vials may go waste while vulnerable senior citizens wait anxiously for their turn to get immune.
  • “There is a lack of flexibility, transparency, and urgency as far as the ongoing national COVID vaccination drive is concerned.” - Dr Vipin M. Vashishtha

India has administered over 10 million COVID-19 vaccine shots in a little over a month. That is only about half of the supplied vaccines that are slated to expire as early as May. This has led to fears that precious vials may go waste while vulnerable senior citizens wait anxiously for their turn to get immune.

On Thursday (Feb 18), the union health ministry highlighted that “India is third globally, after the US and the UK, in highest cumulative vaccination numbers.” And while the ministry seems pleased with itself for accomplishing the mammoth task of administering 1,07,15,204 vaccinations (as of 20 February 2021) in a matter of 35 days, a closer look at the numbers brings to the fore some gaping issues.

Dr Vipin M. Vashishtha — Former Convener, IAP Committee on Immunization, and Pediatrician at Mangla Hospital & Research Center, Bijnor, UP — tells Business Insider that, “we are lagging in delivering vaccines to the needy despite the availability of plenty of vaccine stocks.”
Advertisement

And though the next phase of vaccinations is due to begin in March, state goverments are waiting for some clarity from the Centre on whether the third phase of the rollout will include citizens above the age of 50 with comorbidities, and if yes, how are they going to register for the vaccination?

Tech is not helping at this point

To make the matter worse, multiple sources are reporting major technical glitches with the government’s Covid vaccine intelligence network application (CoWIN app). The app was developed to keep track of the vaccination process, including registration, data entry and communicating with vaccine recipients.

Advertisement

However, hospitals are reporting that people who have received the first shot are not appearing in the booster-shot list. In some cases, the same name is occurring in the list of those who need to take the booster shot, as well as the list of those who have received both their inoculations.

The pace of vaccination is slower than desired

Only around 43% of health care workers (HCW) have received the first dose of vaccine in Maharashtra, where after a brief lull, the number of active cases has spiked considerably. Whereas in Tamil Nadu, only 3.2 lakh HCWs have received their shots despite having received 12.3 lakh vials of vaccination. In Karnataka, of the 17.1 lakh doses received, only 5.8 lakh have been administered. The second dose administration status is even more dismal, with only around 1 in 10 health care workers getting their booster shot.

Doctor Vashishtha believes that the “Ministry of Health (MoH) is adopting a rigid stand without addressing the newly-emerging scientific developments.” This is particularly with regards to the fact that a Word Health Organization expert panel recommends a longer interval of 8-12 week interval between the first and the second dose of the Covishield vaccine to improve efficacy. However, the MoH has not shown any intent to modify their stand to administer the second dose after only 28 days of the first dose despite a straightforward WHO recommendation. Dr Vashisht believes India could have cashed-in on this time gap and could have exploited the additional benefit of reaching more people in the country with the first dose.
Advertisement

According to Dr Vashishtha, “There is a lack of flexibility, transparency, and urgency as far as the ongoing national COVID vaccination drive is concerned.” He stresses that the private sector services that have been totally neglected should have been availed to ramp up the vaccination process. And while the Indian administration may be chuffed that they have so far administered around 10 million doses in a record time, Dr Vashitha notes that “if one analyses the number of vaccine doses administered per 100 people, we are at the bottom of the table.”

SEE ALSO:

Promising new data shows Pfizer's vaccine can overcome its ultra-cold storage requirements, as new research hints at just how effective the shot is

Marico takes on Nestle with Saffola ‘instant noodles’ to rival the iconic Maggi brand in India

Happiest Minds is a smaller company that does the same thing as MindTree and L&T Infotech — but clearly it is doing it a lot better

Advertisement
{{}}