India’s contribution will be critical to fighting COVID-19, especially when it comes to making vaccines for the whole world, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Wednesday, assuring that the government has accorded top-most priority to research and manufacturing to ensure that the vaccine reaches the last person.
He made the remarks while virtually addressing the World Bank-IMF annual meeting on “Unleashing the South Asian Century through Human Capital for All” and “Investing in COVID-19 Vaccines and Primary Healthcare Delivery System”.
He said that the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration is working on all aspects, besides designing innovative approaches to distribute vaccines in rural and remote regions, the Health Ministry said in its statement.
The health minister said the present research agenda for COVID-19 has been to provide an affordable vaccine as well as to ensure its equitable distribution.
Currently, three Indian pharma companies in partnership with foreign or domestic research institutes are expediting the trials of vaccine, the statement said.
The biggest benefit that India has is that it has a robust immunization program in place and it is also implementing the largest immunization program of the world, with nearly 27 million newborns targeted annually, the minister said.
“We have an established infrastructure for supply, storage and delivery of vaccines to the last mile under our Universal Immunization Program as part of which we are administering around 600 million doses to children every year.”
“The strength of these experiences in the vaccination landscape, our best practices and the robustness of our health delivery system will be leveraged and augmented using a strong IT backbone to ensure that this humongous national mission of vaccinating the identified priority groups with COVID-19 vaccine is achieved in a timely manner. The Indian government will leverage an integrated IT platform e-Vin (electronic Vaccine Intelligent Network) for managing vaccine distribution,” Mr Vardhan added.
He re-affirmed the commitment of the Indian government and assured that it has accorded top-most priority to the research and manufacturing to ensure that the vaccine reaches the last person.
“The India story has always been very inspiring as we have made huge strides in improving the health of our people in the last two decades. And now, India’s contribution will be critical to fighting COVID-19, especially when it comes to making vaccines at large scale for the whole world,” the minister was quoted as saying in the statement.
Emphasising India’s role during the pandemic, Mr Vardhan said: “The inclusiveness of India’s response has led us to manage the pandemic currently. The COVID pandemic has created disruption in normal life but has also provided a steep learning curve for all of us to be more resilient and prepared for the future. These efforts have been a result of commitment from all stakeholders.”
India has been following a pre-emptive, proactive, and graded response characterised by a “Whole of Society, Whole of Government” approach to manage the challenges posed by the global pandemic, he said.
Lauding the support of private sector in India’s COVID-19 management, he stated that its innovation, ability and agility has supported the efforts to fight coronavirus in a big way.
“PPEs, N95 masks, oxygen, ventilators and diagnostic tests kits were developed at a jet pace to ensure self-sufficiency. Medical infrastructure saw an exponential growth, from having one lab in March, 2020 to around 2,000 laboratories as on date with nearly half of the labs from the private sector. The same is true for dedicated ICU facilities and isolation centers,” he said.
“The pandemic has taught us that preparedness costs only a fraction of its impact, but returns on the investment are exponential,” he said.
Mr Vardhan said that due to the unprecedented challenges faced by the world on account of the pandemic, India is making use of Information Technology in virtually every aspect of COVID management.
AarogyaSetu app and ITIHAS, a cellular-based tracking technology has been used for surveillance and identification of potential clusters, RT-PCR app for testing, facility application for managing information on admitted patients and all have been integrated with a single COVID portal, he said.
“AarogyaSetu App is presently being used by more than 170 million Indians making it one of the most downloaded apps in the world. A web-based tele-consultation service has been initiated to enable non-COVID-19 healthcare services. So far, more than 0.60 million tele-consultations have been conducted and more people are getting on-board,” he said.
The Union health minister spoke at length about India”s preparedness to deal with pandemics and commitment to ensure affordable healthcare delivery to all.