India began the world’s biggest vaccination drive on January 16, 2020. The target is to inoculate 30 crore people viz. healthcare workers, frontline workers, people above 50 years of age, and people with comorbidities in the first phase.
Indian industry has been closely involved with the mission to battle COVID-19 in the country. Racing against time, factories have reconfigured their processes to product personal protection equipment (PPE) and medical supplies which were earlier being imported. With strenuous efforts, Indian industry could not only produce supplies for India’s needs but also expand production to export to needy countries.
Similarly, Indian companies have attained new pinnacles in developing and manufacturing the vaccines and are set to roll them out to the rest of the world at low costs as well. The entire logistics and supply chain for reaching the vaccines to all parts of the country is being efficiently managed.
To further consolidate and engage Indian industry in this massive mission, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has formed a task force on COVID Vaccine to to supplement government plans. The task force is chaired by Mr T V Narendran, President-Designate, CII, & CEO & Managing Director of Tata Steel Limited, and co-chaired by Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) & Chairman, CII Public Health Council.
The CII taskforce on vaccines has already made several policy submissions to Dr V K Paul, Member NITI Aayog; Mr Rajesh Bhushan, Health Secretary, and the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC).
It has suggested that the private sector capacity can be utilised from phase one itself. The vaccination drive can be undertaken in a public-private partnership model.
There is also a recommendation to consider more categories of essential service providers, including teachers, in the first phase. This would enable certain services to be rolled out faster.
The task force has further suggested including vaccination under the purview of CSR spends to encourage the private sector to inoculate its workforce, among others.
The task force would work to collate relevant information for the central and state governments, and for this purpose, all 68 CII state Offices have been activated. The task force plans to share data on cold chain storage, transportation facilities, private medical schools, nursing homes, clinics, etc. in the states district wise.
The total number of private vaccinators including doctors, specialists and nurses will also be collated for each state. The number of employees of every CII member company, along with those above 50 years, can also be provided to the NEGVAC to ensure targeted rollout of the vaccine.
The CII state offices have created similar task forces at the state level and are engaging with the District Magistrates and local administrations in each of the respective states to support in distribution and inoculation of the COVID vaccine at the district level and block level.
CII has prepared critical strategic documents that have been shared or are in the process of being shared with NEGVAC. Among these is a draft of comprehensive legal framework document to deal with issues related to safeguarding and limiting the liability and compensation of various stakeholders involved in the vaccine distribution and administration process.
CII has suggested that COVID-19 vaccines programme to identify certain elements in the vaccination programme could be considered under the 2 per cent CSR spends and also encourage the private sector to inoculate their workforce for the wider coverage of the vaccination drive.
Economic planning for phased private sector engagement in the inoculation primarily on the three stages of vaccination, i.e. vaccine shortage, vaccine adequacy, and vaccine surplus along with some other recommendations is also being submitted.
In addition, CII is working towards providing infrastructure support, which is further subdivided into communication, advocacy, training and capacity building, point session sites, and technological support.
Along with a social media campaign, the CII COVID-19 website is being updated with the latest updates and information that all businesses and members can access. The aim is to create awareness, counter negative information, bring vaccine confidence, and mitigate any unintended situations.
CII is working with the Healthcare Sector Skill Council (HSSC) to support the government with the assessment of all trainers who are being trained in all states to administer the vaccines. It will give certifications by providers in partnership with HSSC and help amplify their efficacy and reach.
CII is also preparing a strategic guidelines document to make COWIN an open platform in the vaccines’ administration process.
The government plans to vaccinate three crore healthcare & frontline workers and then move on to 27 crore people (above 50 years of age and people with comorbidities) in the first phase. As the country is in the process of writing history, CII stands firmly with the nation in the most challenging pandemic the world has witnessed yet.