Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Ensuring a sustainable vaccination programme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gavi

Mains level : Paper 2- Future pandemic preparedness

Context

COVID-19, which disrupted supply chains across countries and in India too, marks an inflection point in the trajectory of immunisation programmes.

UIP: Showcasing India’s strength in managing large scale vaccination

  • India’s Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP), launched in 1985 to deliver routine immunisation, showcased its strengths in managing large-scale vaccine delivery.
  • This programme targets close to 2.67 crore newborns and 2.9 crore pregnant women annually.
  • Full immunisation: To strengthen the programme’s outcomes, in 2014, Mission Indradhanush was introduced to achieve full immunisation coverage of all children and pregnant women at a rapid pace — a commendable initiative.
  • India’s UIP comprises upwards of 27,000 functional cold chain points of which 750 (3%) are located at the district level and above; the remaining 95% are located below the district level.
  • The COVID-19 vaccination efforts relied on the cold chain infrastructure established under the UIP to cover 87 crore people with two doses of the vaccine and over 100 crore with at least a single dose.

Why strong service delivery network is essential?

  • While we have, over the years, set up a strong service delivery network, the pandemic showed us that there were weak links in the chain, especially in the cold chain.
  • Nearly half the vaccines distributed around the world go to waste, in large part due to a failure to properly control storage temperatures.
  • In India, close to 20% of temperature-sensitive healthcare products arrive damaged or degraded because of broken or insufficient cold chains, including a quarter of vaccines.
  • Wastage has cost implications and can delay the achievement of immunisation targets.

Measures and initiatives in strengthening vaccine supply chains

  • The Health Ministry has been digitising the vaccine supply chain network in recent years through the use of cloud technology, such as with the Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN).
  • Developed with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and implemented by the UN Development Programme through a smartphone-based app, the platform digitises information on vaccine stocks and temperatures across the country.
  • This supports healthcare workers in the last mile in supervising and maintaining the efficiency of the vaccine cold chain.

Way forward

  • Electrification: There is a need to improve electrification, especially in the last mile, for which the potential of solar-driven technology must be explored to integrate sustainable development.
  • For instance, in Chhattisgarh, 72% of the functioning health centres have been solarised to tackle the issue of regular power outages.
  • This has significantly reduced disruption in service provision and increased the uptake of services.

Conclusion

India has pioneered many approaches to ensure access to public health services at a scale never seen before. Robust cold chain systems are an investment in India’s future pandemic preparedness; by taking steps towards actionable policies that improve the cold chain, we have an opportunity to lead the way in building back better and stronger.

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