Harsh Vardhan calls for people's movement to ensure equitable vaccine distribution

Rutam Vora Ahmedabad | Updated on March 30, 2021

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan

Experts discuss bringing the private sector to reduce government burden from vaccine distribution.

Pushing for the equitable distribution of vaccines for all, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan stated that multi-level engagement for the vaccine distribution is required at the national and international to ensure the broader coverage for immunisation.

"Now, when the vaccines have come, and they are being delivered to the people, let us spread a message of building a people's movement to ensure that there is an equitable distribution of the vaccine. And we are able to provide vaccines to the people all across the globe," Vardhan said, adding that the public-private alliances, including stakeholders and international agencies, need to contribute and come together for distribution synergies of the highest level across the globe.

Explaining India's preparedness to launch the world's largest immunisation programme, the Union Minister stated that India had created about 50,000 vaccination centres. "This involved about 7 lakh health workers for COVID-19 vaccination. We built capacities and for swift implementation, created taskforces at multiple levels including national level, state level, district level and even at the block level," he said during the panel discussion on Vaccine production and distribution across Asia at the second day of the World Immunisation and Logistics Summit conducted virtually at Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

The other panellists included Madhav Kurup, Regional CEO (the Middle East and South Asia) for Hellmann Worldwide Logistics and Pascal Rey-Herme, Co-Founder & Group Medical Director of International SOS organisation, highlighted the need to rope-in private participants for ensuring quick last-mile delivery without putting financial burdens on the governments.

Rey-Herme from International SOS favoured public-private partnership in ensuring effective distribution of the vaccine. Governments need to leverage the private sector to be able to achieve accessibility. "Firstly, identify who has the existing expertise in managing cold chain, they are best prepared to adapt to the required supply chain and create a COVID-19 supply chain. Second, in times of crisis, the government may also look at other partners, such as supplying perishable goods to the most remote areas in the country. They have great experience in managing cold chain," stated Rey-Herme.

Highlighting the challenges involved in distributing Covid-19 vaccine, Madhav Kurup informed that while the pandemic had disturbed the logistics and supply chain world over, there were challenges such as ensuring storage conditions and maintaining the integrity of the vaccine during the logistics. "With high level of vaccine hesitancy persists in many countries, planning the right quantity for each location is a major challenge. Also, vaccine wastage happens mainly due to the lack of infrastructure for the return process. Also, regulatory and control mechanism to ensure proper destruction mechanism for the wasted vaccines. Also, another big challenge is the threat of counterfeit vaccines and violations of the regulations. So, an alliance like Hope Consortium or COVAX can be an effective mode to address these challenges," added Kurup.

The Union Health Minister also welcomed international consortiums such as Hope Consortium and COVAX, the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access initiative for equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines led by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, among others.

"This is the most welcome step, as it is exactly the need of the hour. This should inspire many other organisations to work together.

They have to ensure that there is a strengthening of strategy and efforts and the spirit of an alliance is most honestly ordered and implemented by each of us," added Vardhan.

Published on March 30, 2021

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