With the ‘One Billion’ vaccination mark, India has achieved a remarkable milestone of global significance. This was a very successful journey, achieved within a compressed time period under hugely challenging circumstances.
The vaccination drive was driven personally by the top leaders of the country and involved multiple stakeholders, including administration at Central, State and local levels, industry across several sectors, hospitals and healthcare workers, schools and teachers, community workers and ordinary people across the country. It truly represents a paradigm of what the country can achieve with concerted partnership efforts in mission mode.
India deployed its vaccination strategy based on global best practices and scientific temperament, as soon as the first wave of COVID-19 hit the country in March 2020.
Four core groups were formed by the Government to guide the vaccination drive in the country. The National Task Force for Focused Research on Corona Vaccine was formed in April 2020 to monitor and facilitate the Research and Development (R&D) of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) was set up in August 2020 to prepare a comprehensive plan for vaccine administration.
An Empowered Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (EGVAC) was constituted in January 2021 to make vaccination an all-inclusive and more effective process.
The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) was formed to provide technical assistance on vaccine administration.
Currently, three vaccines viz. Covishield, Covaxin, and Sputnik-V are being administered across the country. ZyCoV-D, the world’s first DNA-based vaccine, is being allowed in emergency cases. Three vaccines are in the advanced stage of clinical trials- Corbevax, HGCO19, and intranasal vaccine.
To make the vaccine process more effective and transparent, a real-time digital platform, Co-WIN, was developed for registration and appointment for vaccination. The Co-WIN app not only gives real-time information on the availability of the vaccine at a particular vaccine center but also generates vaccination certificates and maintains transparency.
Co-WIN software has been globally acknowledged for its efficiency and effectiveness. Since then, the Government has made the software open-source, and more than 100 countries have shown interest in using the app in their vaccination drives.
The vaccination drive in India started on 16 January 2021. In the first round, the vaccination group was prioritised based on the vulnerability to the disease and targeted at the vulnerable healthcare workers and frontline workers who were valiantly fighting the pandemic in the community.
Subsequently, in the second round, vaccination was rolled out for people above 60 years of age and those below this age who suffered from comorbidities. The third phase starting from May 2021 opened the vaccination process for all adults at or above 18 years.
According to a report published by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India became the fastest nation in the world to reach the milestones of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 10 million vaccinations. With 3.03 lakh active vaccination centres in the country, 60.7 per cent of adults in India have received at least one dose.
The Government is also providing free vaccines to all at its vaccination centres to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine. Around 181 million people have received both doses of the vaccine, which is the highest in the world.
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), to strengthen the vaccination process in the country, had formed a special task force on the COVID-19 vaccine to interact with NEGVAC. CII’s ‘Project Vaccine Nation’ maps the demand for vaccines from CII Members and industry to help vaccinate the workforce, their families, and communities.
CII Foundation has been setting up vaccination camps across the country to reach out to tier-II and tier III cities and rural areas. The CII Foundation Woman Exemplars, grassroots community leaders, are playing a pivotal role in mobilising communities for vaccinations and working closely with local health bodies to set up vaccination camps. Vaccination camps are currently being organised across 14 States/Union Territories of India to serve underserved communities.
India has not only been running a successful vaccination drive in India but has supplied 66.37 million doses to 95 countries.
As India fights COVID-19, we should not forget to adhere to COVID-19 appropriate behaviour. We as citizens should encourage others, too, to take the vaccination. It is only through a unified effort from all that COVID-19 can be defeated and the world’s largest vaccination drive can vanquish the infectious virus.