Rahul Gandhi to Modi govt: How will the COVID-19 vaccine reach every Indian?

Malini T
·3-min read

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said the government will have to define a vaccine distribution strategy to ensure that every Indian gets the COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE have said that their vaccine candidate has been found to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19.

In a tweet, Gandhi said:

He attached a media report with his tweet, saying that no cold chain logistic company in India has the capability to transport the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 to India which required a temperature of minus 70 degrees.

Rahul’s comments comes a day after Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said, “The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 is in talks with all vaccine manufacturers, including domestic and foreign manufacturers.”

“When we continue this dialogue, we not only look at the status of the development of their vaccines, we also look at the regulatory approvals as to where they have progressed and we also engage in a dialogue about the logistical requirements, if such vaccines have to stored at temperatures that may range from two to eight degrees to minus 50 to minus 90 degrees Celsius as well as the doses that will be required to be administered. This is a continuously changing, dynamic situation and if and when the regulatory approval comes, we will share it with you,” Bhushan said at a press briefing.

Asked whether the vaccine would only be available in the metro cities initially since the Centre is planning an early 2021 roll-out, Bhushan said the government does not make any discrimination between metro cities and non-metro cities.

“Whenever the regulatory approvals for the vaccines are provided, we have a plan that would ensure that the vaccines would be available to all priority population groups, irrespective of the region where they reside,” he clarified.

Responding to another query on vaccine administration, he said, “We are in a position to not only augment and strengthen, but also to add to our cold chain capabilities. Any large-scale immunisation would not only require a substantial increase in the number of cold-chain points, but also a huge rise in the number of cold chain equipment,” he added.

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE on November 09 said their vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19.

“Today is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine's ability to prevent COVID-19,” Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said.

The announcement doesn't mean a vaccine is imminent. This interim analysis, from an independent data monitoring board, looked at 94 infections recorded so far in a study that has enrolled nearly 44,000 people in the US and five other countries.

Pfizer Inc did not provide any more details about those cases, and cautioned the initial protection rate might change by the time the study ends. Even revealing such early data is highly unusual.

“We're in a position potentially to be able to offer some hope,” Dr. Bill Gruber, Pfizer's senior vice-president of clinical development, told The Associated Press.

Authorities have stressed it's unlikely any vaccine will arrive much before the end of the year, and limited initial supplies will be rationed.