Training and grooming cadres of staff at different healthcare levels would be a critical component.
By Dr Alok Roy The challenge of producing, distributing and administering the vaccine to the people in the shortest possible time is formidable, more so for a country like India given our population, geographical spread and skewed health infrastructure across urban and rural areas and between states. The government is aware of this challenge and, accordingly, the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) was formed to leverage available resources, public and private, in the best possible manner to fulfil this task.
In just 15 days India had vaccinated more than 30 lakh Covid-19 warriors, and now phase 2 of this drive is under way where caregivers are administering the vaccine to senior citizens and people with comorbidities. India is not just running the biggest vaccination drive, but is also leaving a stamp of Atmanirbhar Bharat in becoming the fastest in doing so. Lakhs of Indians have registered on the CoWin portal to get the vaccine, and effective partnerships and seamless collaboration in PPP mode is pivotal for its success. Private healthcare players are as committed as the government to fulfil the target of the largest ever and most complex vaccination programme.
India would need 1.3-1.4 lakh vaccination centres, 1 lakh healthcare professionals and 2 lakh support staff/volunteers to support this mass inoculation programme. This task is to be taken by the government and healthcare service providers like a war, and all logistics to be organised till such time the war is won. Everybody has to come forward to support the vaccination drive and the services need to be transcended beyond conventional hospitals or nursing homes or healthcare centres. If need be, we have to go the doorsteps to administer the vaccine and necessary supply chain management be built up around this.
Private healthcare sector, responsible for almost 70% of healthcare delivery and 60% inpatient care in the country, can supplement the physical and human infrastructure supply in key capacity-constrained regions, specifically in urban and semi-urban areas. There needs to be seamless delivery by stabilising the CoWin platform to handle the enormous demand, as people are bit concerned about how to register themselves. As private players we are educating the receivers and also keeping them abreast about the distribution model, to minimise queues and utilise the resources to the best of our capabilities and capacities.
Considering two doses per individual and an additional wastage of 10%, India shall need 200 crore doses in the next two years. The battle is nearly won. Rolling out Covid-19 vaccine for over a 100 crore Indians requires an unprecedented level of preparation and implementation. The rollout is being taken up in phase-basis, clearly-defined criteria for determining eligibility and prioritisation of potential recipients.
Training and grooming cadres of staff at different healthcare levels would be a critical component. It will require PPP at different levels and a large number of skilled manpower. Estimating the scale of vaccination in phases and accordingly preparing logistics and training human resources at different levels would be critical to ensure success and sustainability.
The author is chair, FICCI Health Services Committee, and chairman, Medica Group of Hospitals