It is said that in upcoming months the vaccine for corona will be introduced. Every country is checking its preparedness to make reaching the medicine easy. Contemporary medical history shows that achievements in laboratories often have a long and tortured path to people’s well being, especially the most vulnerable.
For India this exercise sounds quite tough. India produces 60% of the world`s vaccine and is home to the largest manufacturer, Pune-based Serum Institute. Yet the country also has the largest number of unvaccinated children in the world. NSO data shows that less than 60% of children receive the entire basket of vaccines.
Securing 1.3 billion people will require a massive public policy effort at bolstering the country’s public health infrastructure, roping in the private sector without imperilling equity and obviating black markets as well as checking the diversion of resources from regular immunisation programmes.
We will be needing required infrastructure and supply chain for the vaccine to reach the consumer. There are logistic challenges as the vaccine needs a lower temperature requirement for its storage than the existing infrastructure. How the government would do its job on procurement and distribution, focus should be on keeping the spread under check and studying the virus for having more effective antiviral drugs.
How we dealt with polio
India , a vastly diverse country with a 27million birth cohort, undertook the largest vaccination drive against WPV in the world. With high population density, poor civic infrastructure, poor sanitation, and almost nonexistent public health system, rampant malnutrition and diarrhea, difficult to reach locales, high population mobility, and extremely high force of WPV transmission in few states, the interruption of WPV transmission was extremely difficult and demanding.
The interplay of these challenging factors provided a perfect milieu for the WPV to circulate, and the prospect of achieving zero- polio status seemed insurmountable. Eradication efforts were plagued by low coverage and poor monitoring of routine immunization and supplementary immunization activities.
In addition, there was community fatigue and extremely low efficacy of trivalent oral polio vaccine in uttar pradesh and Bihar, the most populous northern states of the country. There was also resistance to immunization drives owing to negative rumors about safety of OPV.
Unprecedented government ownership and commitment towards this mass health initiative were key to success. The government of India provided financial sustainability to the ongoing program and made annual budgetary allocations to the GPEI after initial funding from global agencies. The prime ministers office directly supervised and periodically reviewed the performance of the program. Even states were proactive in taking ownership of eradication programs, with chief ministers of the key endemic states taking charge of ongoing polio eradication programs in their own states.
The district task force was formed in every district, andmonthly task force meetings were conducted. The private sector played a major role in India’s victory over polio. Academic bodies such as the Indian Medical Association, along with other agencies also conducted awareness camps to educate the community about the misconceptions regarding polio vaccines.
House to house vaccination drives were held to vaccinate those children who were not covered by fixed sites vaccination during supplementary immunization activities. The whole country from central government to state government, private players, civil societies, renowned persons were involved in this drive against the virus. Then we got success to eradicate that virus from India.
A similar will power is required to eradicate coronavirus. The situation has somewhat improved but we will be needing well developed infrastructure and supply chain to make the vaccine reach the people.
Examples of successful cases and failures are there and we need to learn from them. Ultimately it is the effort of the government and the will of the people that will make the distribution of vaccine successful.