From labs to Syringes: How a Covid vaccine will reach you
About 100 Covid-19 vaccines are being tested for safety and efficacy around the world now, but even if a few get approved for use in the next couple of months, their journey to a clinic near you could take much longer, A look at the distribution challenges that lie ahead.
- Before vaccines roll out, manufactures and governments will need to ensure the infrastructure to safely store and transport them is in place. For example, most vaccines have a short life outside a freezer. While the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine remains stable at -20C-a temperature commercial freezers can reach – Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech’s vaccines require far lower temperatures.
- Moderna’s vaccine can be stored in a normal refrigerator for only two weeks, and must be used within six hours once at room temperature. So, vaccine distribution will pose a logistical challenge. Not only warehouses and hospitals but also trucks and planes transporting the vaccines will have to be fitted with freezers.
- The National Expert Group on vaccine Administration for Covid-19 has been put together to help the government draw up the distribution strategy. India will use its universal Immunization programme (UIP)-that already covers BCG, polio and hepatitis vaccinations-as the blueprint, Union health minister harsh Vardhan said in Lok sabha.
- The Electronic vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN) under UIP, wich monitors vaccine supplies and 24000, cold chain. Storage points across the country in real time, will also be expanded to distribute the covid vaccine. The government says eVIN has helped ensure 99% availability of vaccines at most health centers and an 80% decline in stock-outs for existing immunisation programmes.
- Vaccines come in glass vials with inert stoppers. The vials are made from special glass that can withstand deep freezing. The supply of this glass is limited and the facilities for sterilizing vials, stoppers, syringes and needles also need to be expanded to speedily dispatch millions of vaccines every day.
- Just as the infection hit in Waves, so will the vaccine – it’s likely that the limited supplies of the first vaccines will force government to make some difficult choices as vaccinating the elderly first will reduce mortality while vaccinating the working-age population can limited the spread of infection and help revive economies. Targeting healthcare workers first will ensure those at the greatest risk of exposure are protected. The end goal, however, is to vaccinate as many people as possible to achieve herd immunity.
- Most countries, including India, and the WHO agree healthcare workers, the elderly and those with underlying condition should be vaccinated first. However, the newly proposed fair priority model recommends distribution based on the number of severe cases in an area and reducing premature deaths.
- WHO’ s covid-19 Global Access initiative is aiming to make 2 billion vaccine doses available by the end of 2021 to ensure at least 20% of each country’s population is vaccinated. More than 170 countries have signed on but the US, Russia and china have kept out.
Some wealthy countries are pre-buying large stocks of vaccines for their own people. The US, UK, EU and Japan have signed deals to reserve an estimated 1.5 billion doses. The US alone has reserved 800 million doses, The UK 340 million- enough to vaccinate each resident five times-and Canada 90 million to ensure two shots per citizen.