Prepared by Dr. Venkata Rama Rao Nallani, Professor & Head of Department of Pharmacy Practice, Chalapathi Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India, and Treasurer of ISPOR India Amaravati Regional Chapter
India is the second most populous country in the world and has faced incredible challenges from the global COVID-19 pandemic. The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in India was of a 20-year-old female returning from Wuhan. It was reported in the southern state of Kerala on 30 January 2020. Sixteen months later, the reported cumulative case count stands at 28.3 million. Globally, India stands second only to the United States (US) in absolute numbers of cases. In proportion to India’s entire population, the cases comprise two percent. As of 3 June 2021, India has had over 300,000 deaths due to COVID-19, the highest number in the world after the US and Brazil. In terms of deaths per million population in India’s number is 234. And while the Indian Government has made provision for 100% free vaccination to every corner of India, disseminating the COVID-19 vaccine has been a big challenge to the nation.
India officially launched its COVID-19 vaccination drive on 16 January 2021, with two approved vaccines – Covishield and Covaxin. As of 3 June 2021, as per reports from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), India has administered just over 221 million vaccine doses out of 1.38 billion population, or about 16%. By comparison, the USA has fully vaccinated over 60% of its population. The government informed the public that while a little more than 79 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine were available with the states in May, nearly 120 million doses will be made available in June.
Obstacles to India’s Vaccination Campaign
Myths and misinformation around vaccines circulating on both traditional and social media have had a significant impact on the global vaccination drive. Probably the greatest fears towards vaccination stem from the fact that the vaccines have been developed at a rapid pace and the mechanism of how these vaccines work is almost completely unknown to much of the general population.
Across the globe, there are sections of people who have historically denied the need for vaccines. These people – referred to as “vaccine denialists” – launch vocal, active public campaigns against the use of any vaccine, including the ones for COVID-19. Their protests of the use of vaccines find space in both mainstream and new media and reach significantly.
To streamline the process of vaccination, the Indian government developed a digital platform – called Co-WIN – where one could book an appointment for vaccination, check the status of vaccination, and later download their vaccination certificate . The same portal allows the government to keep track of the country’s vaccination statistics. The idea was simple enough: digitize the process, avoid the hassles of analog record-keeping, and allow for easy data management. However, Co-WIN has had its fair share of problems.