COVID-19 vaccine deployment in India: Lessons we need to learn from the past

It appears that a vaccine(s) is the only way to stop COVID-19 and return the world to some semblance of normalcy. As the race inches to a close, everybody is waiting for their turn to get the vaccine and go meet their friends for a cup of coffee.

However, there are several scientific hurdles that still need to be surpassed: how effective would the vaccine be across demographics? For how long will the vaccine confer immunity? Will the virus mutate, rendering the vaccine ineffective? Even if we get a combination of vaccines that answers these questions, the capacity to produce, distribute and monitor adverse events related to the vaccine are going to limit an effective vaccine rollout. Hence, it is important India identifies the vaccine demand, invests in capacity and communicates with the public to enable a smooth immunisation programme.

Lessons from COVID-19 testing

India’s response to detecting the COVID-19 outbreak was reactive, not proactive. For weeks COVID-19 testing was limited to authorised government laboratories, and available conditional on pre-determined criteria. Instead of scaling up testing capacity and aggressively test and trace, the government took a cautious approach, most likely to protect scarce testing resources. However, a strategy to ramp up both kit manufacture and early inclusion of private laboratories could have helped India’s response in containing the spread of the virus. (Read more)