The rapid development and deployment of vaccines against COVID‑19 is an extraordinary achievement. The journey to 183 Cr. doses, fully-vaccinating 60% of the country, and even Sambhav’s own vaccination efforts that led to over 6 lakh vaccinations hold several important lessons. Lessons that need to make their way into immunization efforts beyond COVID-19. Even as we try to beat the pandemic, the battles against vaccine-preventable diseases like diphtheria, pertussis, polio, measles, rubella, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, meningitis, and pneumonia continue.
This edition of “Impact at scale” discusses challenges in production, distribution, deployment, and importantly, acceptance.
- Trust in the vaccines is vital and critically dependent on the ability of governments to communicate the benefits of vaccination and to deliver the vaccines safely. Do we have enough feet on the ground to advocate, counsel, and administer vaccines to a country of our size?
- Nearly 1 million children die before their 5th birthday in India. 1 out of 4 of these deaths are caused by diarrhoea and pneumonia despite vaccines being available for it, just because of vaccine hesitancy. Myths and misinformation are rampant in the rural population due to lack of awareness.
- A single vaccination camp requires at least 5 trained personnel across multiple job roles. The density of the total health workforce is estimated to be 29 per 10,000 population but only 16 trained workers per 10,000. There is a lack of workers required to carry out vaccination.
- Vaccine hesitancy should be tackled with awareness campaigns at the village level. Community health workers need to be on the ground to dispel myths on vaccine side effects and gain the confidence of people.
- Certified and standardized immunization centers present a logistical challenge. Efficient operation requires management and service delivery staff to carry out various roles like vaccine administration, data entry personnel, community mobilizer, and site manager.
- India does not meet the production requirement capacity due to poor vaccination management planning. Effective public health strategies need to be devised to streamline vaccination efforts and grow our immunization capacity to prevent diseases nationwide.
Vaccination isn’t just about COVID-19, although it will be the first hurdle we overcome. There have been coronaviruses before, and there will be another. There will be other variants. But, we need to beat severe form of childhood tuberculosis, rotavirus, hepatitis, meningitis…a list that has been uncomfortably long for too long.
“Vaccines are the tugboats of preventive health” – William Foege
Until next time,
Dr. Gayathri Vasudevan