Challenges in Covid-19 Vaccination

News: There was a decrease in the number of vaccine doses administered in the week starting 1st May 2021, after the government “opened up” vaccination beyond priority groups, to its lowest level in eight weeks. Covid-19 vaccines are being developed at a pace faster than for any other disease, yet there are shortages.

Issues being faced worldwide:

  • With about seven billion people to be vaccinated worldwide, with mostly two jabs (Doses) each, the demand is obviously very high.
  • More than 80% of available vaccines have been ordered and/or already stocked by a few countries representing only about 20% of the world population. Even with a World Health Organization (WHO)-led effort like COVAX, only about 1% of the African population has received vaccines so far.
  • Till now only three vaccines—Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen—have been approved by the US. The most affordable AstraZeneca vaccine still awaits approval. Approval for Russia’s Sputnik V was recently denied in Brazil. Vaccines of China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm are not yet approved in western countries.

Challenges in India:

  • Limited capacity of the two vaccine (COVAXIN & COVISHIELD) manufacturers who are now being piled upon with much bigger orders from state governments and private hospitals that may take months to fulfil.
  • There is a big gap in the supply chain of the ambitious programme to vaccinate all its adult population.
  • Although India ranks number three after the US and China in the absolute number of vaccines administered, only about 13% of its population has received a single jab and about 2% fully vaccinated. Many countries have already vaccinated more than half their adult population.
  • The revised vaccine procurement process builds in a skew against smaller hospitals in cities and towns in comparison to their bigger counterparts in simply getting access to the shots, and a more disconcerting urban-rural divide in terms of where healthcare facilities are vis-à-vis the already-established supply-chain map.
  • There is the issue of mandatory Co-Win registration as part of the new decentralised distribution strategy, which potentially adds to an entry barrier that could be tougher to navigate for users in the hinterland, both in terms of access to the platform and an English-only interface for users so far.
  • Mandatory online registration introduces a skew in favour of urban centres, given that a little over half of India’s population has access to broadband Internet, while rural tele-density is under 60%. States including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh having among the country’s lowest tele-density.
  • It is more difficult for those with less access and greater unfamiliarity with technology, including access to a smartphone or computer.