As the whole world is waiting for coronavirus vaccine, technology can play a pivotal and vital role in how the government vaccinates its population, tracks vaccines, monitors doses, and also manages to locate any adverse events, says Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chairperson & MD, Biocon.
Speaking at the Business Today's India's Most Powerful Women 2020, Mazumdar Shaw further states that if India gets a coronavirus vaccine by early next year, there will be at least 4-5 inoculations approved in some form or the other (by 2021). She adds that if that is the case, then the government has to do "preparedness planning from now and decide how it distributes the vaccines, how it is going to collect the data, who is to be vaccinated and how to make sure that if a vaccine requires two doses then how it ensures that people who need the second dose will get that information in time."
Mazumdar Shaw goes on to say that this will be very difficult to do without technology and therefore "I believe that this is the time the government develops a robust vaccination plan on a technological platform".
Regarding the challenges the government can face if it is to do it, the Biocon MD and chairperson highlights that "we have over a billion people who need to be vaccinated for which a number of vaccines need to be deployed" and in order to ensure this the government needs to track the supply chain which requires cold chain management.
The trick, Mazumdar Shaw says, is to make sure that the government doesn't store vaccines for too long in areas where it doesn't have efficient supply chains. "So, can we have just in time low inventories in the rural heartland of this country? Can we make sure that we have already mapped out all the vaccination centres where they should be? In my view primary health centres, health and wellness centres, and all govt hospitals ought to be dedicated for vaccination deployment. Thus, when the vaccine does arrive, we also have to make sure that all these centres at least have some refrigeration capacity."
She expresses that the government needs to make sure that it maps the population-based vaccination demand across each of its health and wellness centres and district/community hospitals etc. Mazumdar Shaw adds that even pharmacies can be accredited to vaccinate people.
She points out that in order to have a comprehensive database Aadhaar can come to the government's rescue as this unique identification number is a feat that no other country in the world has managed at this scale.
Hence, Aadhaar can be leveraged intelligently as it gives the government a powerful way to vaccinate, track and assess who got which vaccine, how many people received the right dose, and if any of the vaccines manifest any adverse effects at a later stage, all of it can be tracked with the help of Aadhaar. Mazumdar Shaw further expresses that the 12-digit unique identification number can be used in both rural and urban areas. She also states that ASHA workers can also be used in a big way because they can "help with vaccine preparations, planning and deployment apart from the peoples' other healthcare needs."