A billion vaccinations in 40 weeks - India

21 October 2021

When comparing a million to a billion, the analogy using time provides an apt differentiation. One million seconds would pass in about eleven and a half days, while a billion seconds would last for thirty-one and a half years. India has achieved the milestone of administering one billion doses of vaccines for Covid-19. This achievement makes 30% of India’s 1.3 billion people fully vaccinated while 75% have received one dose so far.

Mission ‘Covid Suraksha’ was launched in 2020 with the establishment of the National Task Force for Focused Research on Corona Vaccine. The priority was to provide financial and technical support to indigenous vaccine manufacturers. This has resulted in the world's first DNA-based COVID vaccine Zycov-D, developed by Zydus Cadila, which will facilitate vaccination of children above 12 years. The Mission also supported the capacity development of Bharat Biotech and provided support for infrastructure and technology development for other public sector manufacturers.

Today, India is the only country that has developed multiple vaccines across multiple platforms. Bharat Biotech’s COVAXIN uses an inactivated virus platform, Zycov-D is a DNA vaccine, Covishield a viral vector vaccine and Gennova is in the running for being India’s first mRNA vaccine.

COVISHIELD, developed by Serum Institute of India, in collaboration with Astra Zeneca of the United Kingdom, COVAXIN of Bharat Biotech International Limited and SPUTNIK V of Russia have the approval of Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), and have been utilized in the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP).

The locally designed Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network – eVIN is managing the cold chain supply lines. Smartphone applications are used to monitor stocks and temperature as they are being distributed by over 700 temperature controlled vehicles from over 29000 cold storage facilities.

The scale of vaccinating India’s billion plus population and reaching a landmark figure can be gauged from the 313 000 vaccination centres across the country staffed by 740 000 people and 264 000 trained vaccinators.

CoWIN, a unique digital platform developed in India, has made it possible to register beneficiaries, schedule their vaccination, generate QR Code based vaccine certificates and capture their vaccination history. In addition, it has also kept track of the entire implementation process including daily coverage and vaccine requirement across various Indian States.

The use of drones has been piloted to ensure that no one gets left behind. A special outreach to pregnant and lactating women, the destitute, vagabonds and other vulnerable groups has been the focus. Vaccination for school teachers is essential for the normalisation of safe schooling to resume. India’s healthcare and frontline workers have been celebrated for their indomitable spirit as they overcame the many challenges in dealing with this unprecedented global pandemic.

The increased monthly production of Covid-19 vaccines would translate to a larger basket of vaccine options and a larger proportion of India’s population fully vaccinated. It would also mean a larger potential to share vaccines with the world, contributing toward realization of India’s vision of “One Earth, One Health”.