Takshashila hosts a webinar on how to vaccinate up to a billion Indians against COVID-19

On 28 October 2020, the Takshashila Institution hosted a webinar on how to vaccinate up to a billion Indians against COVID-19, to discuss the various logistical, administrative, and ethical aspects of vaccinating Indians. The discussion was based on the slide-doc “A COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment Strategy for India”, that the team at Takshashila has come up with.

The speakers for the session were Shambhavi Naik, Research Fellow, and Ameya Paleja, Intern, at the Takshashila Institution. The panelists included Nitin Pai, Director, Narayan Ramachandran, Advisor, Mihir Mahajan, Adjunct Fellow, and Rahul Matthan, Fellow, Takshashila Institution. The event was hosted and moderated by Pranay Kotasthane, Head of Takshashila’s Research team.

Pranay Kotasthane opened the conversation by addressing how the question of COVID-19 vaccine distribution is more important than any other questions straddling the areas of public health, economy and geostrategy. Shambhavi Naik then began the presentation by stating the aim of the vaccine strategy – vaccinating 80% of India’s population by December 2021. Explaining the first two steps of the strategy – estimating need and securing the supply – she went into the details of how the population groups should be prioritized and what the government needs to do to facilitate the manufacturing of vaccines.

Ameya Paleja then provided insights on the last two steps – choosing delivery channels and conducting post-market surveillance. Imploring that a “one size fits all” strategy will not be appropriate, he talked about the various distribution channels and the suitability of the National Health Authority to manage the vaccination data for monitoring.

After the in-depth explanation of the proposed vaccine strategy, the forum was opened for Q&A. One of the participants asked a question about how the government would finance such a massive vaccination exercise. In his reply, Narayan Ramachandran said that the government will have to fund it through debt, which will have implications on fiscal deficit. The government will have to defray it through some form of tax, probably a cess.

In reply to another question posed by one of the participants, about integrating and collating data, Rahul Matthan replied that the National Health Authority is best suited to manage this data, as it is already responsible for managing the data for the PM-JAY scheme and will be rolling out the National Digital Health Mission in the near future.

After the Q&A session, Pranay Kotasthane concluded the session by remarking that the proposed vaccine strategy is a reasoned approach and all the trade-offs were considered while designing the strategy.

You can watch a recording of the session here.