Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday suggested developing a vaccine delivery system that is on the lines of how elections are conducted in the country and disaster management work is conducted, even as he discussed ensuring speedy access to coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccines for every Indian citizen.
The Prime Minister chaired a meeting to review the Covid-19 situation and the arrangements for vaccine delivery, distribution, and administration. During the meeting, the PM noted that the growth of Covid-19 cases in the country was showing signs of slowing down but he warned against any complacency before the deadly pandemic was brought under control.
“Three vaccines are in advanced stages of development in India, out of which 2 are in Phase II and one is in Phase-III," a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office said. “The Prime Minister further directed that keeping in view the geographical span and diversity of the country, the access to the vaccine should be ensured speedily. The Prime Minister stressed that every step in the logistics, delivery, and administration should be put in place rigorously," the statement added. It must include advance planning of cold storage chains, distribution network, monitoring mechanism, advance assessment, and preparation of ancillary equipment required, such as vials, syringes, etc., the PMO quote Modi as saying.
Top functionaries including health minister Harsh Vardhan, principal secretary to the PM PK Mishra, NITI Aayog member VK Paul and principal scientific adviser Vijaya Raghavan were present at the meeting held to chart out the future path for handling the pandemic. There has been a clear decline in daily cases, growth rate and number of deaths over the past three weeks, the PMO statement said.
The Prime Minister suggested that the vaccine delivery system be developed on the lines of the conduct of elections in India. In the world’s most populous democracy, elections, especially those for the Lok Sabha, are a massive affair, with security forces, teachers, administrative officials and others being involved along with the active participation of political parties, organisations and millions of citizens.
“The Prime Minister said that in a similar manner, vaccine delivery and administration systems should be put in place. This should involve the participation of States/UTs/District Level functionaries, civil society organisations, volunteers, citizens, and experts from all necessary domains. The entire process should have a strong IT backbone..." the statement said. Experts said that by pointing to the election model, the PM gave an indication of the scale at which the government plans to take the vaccination drive to the people.
At the meeting, it was also discussed that Indian scientists and research teams were collaborating with and strengthening the research capacities in neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal and Sri Lanka. There are further requests from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Qatar and Bhutan for clinical trials in their countries, the statement said.
Modi directed top officials that India should not limit its efforts to its immediate neighbourhood but should reach out to the entire world in providing vaccines, medicines and information technology platforms for vaccine delivery systems.
The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC) in consultation with state governments and all stakeholders has prepared a detailed blueprint of vaccine storage, distribution, and administration, which was presented at the meeting. The expert group is working actively on vaccine prioritisation and distribution in consultation with the states.
“The Prime Minister further directed that keeping in view the geographical span and diversity of the country, the access to the vaccine should be ensured speedily," the PMO said.
The Prime Minister said that in a similar manner vaccine delivery and administration systems should be put in place. This should involve the participation of states, union territories, district level functionaries, civil society organisations, volunteers, citizens, and experts from all necessary domains.
As the work continues to develop an effective vaccine for Covid-19, the government said two nationwide studies on the genome of the virus in India suggest it is genetically stable and has shown no major mutation. There have been concerns that any major mutation detected in the coronavirus could hinder the development of an effective vaccine. However, some recent global studies have said the vaccines currently being developed for Covid-19 should not be affected by recent mutations.
Asked about the Prime Minister’s call to learn from the experience of elections and disaster management, political scientist Neelanjan Sircar said there were many areas in which the understanding can be augmented. “There is undoubtedly a large scope for learning. Elections is a little bit different because technically, election management is done by one particular body, the Election Commission, which has a particular set of resources available," he said.
Sircar said one of the aspects which came to the fore was regarding coordination vis-à-vis disaster management, which is a state subject. Sircar said many problems or issues may require coordination that may not immediately exist. This is definitely also an opportunity for us to learn, he added.
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