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An end to end track and trace of vaccine doses critical to vaccination success

While GoI’s CoWIN and eVIN will be used for vaccination management, a combination of technologies like Blockchain, IoT, RFID, bar code can play a crucial role in India topping the global vaccination success chart

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The Govt of India’s Special Expert Committee finally recommended the emergency licensure for Serum Institute’s Covishield vaccine. While it still awaits approval from DCGI, the massive anti-COVID-19 vaccination programme has got a head start.

Meanwhile, India will kick-off vaccination dry-runs in all states from today. This will be Dry Run2.0 as the first stage of dry runs were successfully conducted in four states a few days back. The objective of this massive and countrywide exercise will be to test the efficacy of the systems put in place for vaccination. Overall, over ninety six thousand personnel have been trained. The dry run will test the efficacy of the Co-WIN (COVID-19 Vaccine Intelligence Network) platform, which will register the database of citizens to be administered with the vaccine; it will also make sure there are no holes in the coordination among the various organisations involved in the exercise. “We will go into the minutest detail,” says Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister.    

Globally, many countries have begun with their vaccination programmes and it’s important to consider what can go wrong:

In the USA, Over twelve people in West Virginia were by mistake administered with Regeneron’s Covid-19 antibody treatment instead of the Moderna vaccine.

Germany experienced vaccine delays, after GPS temperature trackers indicated 1,000 dosages did not maintain the required temperatures while in transit in many areas in the state of Bavaria.

Germany’s vaccination programme has also experienced eight workers in a care home receive an overdose.

In the USA, Police in Grafton, Wisconsin, arrested a pharmacist, who was recently suspended for removing 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine from a local hospital’s refrigerator and left them.

India should benefit from the learnings from these global experiences. Having said that, for the vaccination programme to be successful, a seamless track and trace will be critical – an end to end tracking and traceability of the vaccine doses, right from the manufacturing location until the vaccine is injected to the citizens. The trail of the vaccine vials would be from the manufacturing location to states to districts to vaccination centres or hospitals. For the programme to be successful, it has to be Live tracked and traced every step of the way.

Blockchain can potentially prove effective in combination with other technologies like sensors, bar code, RFID, geo-tagging, AI etc. According to sources, the Government of India has seen a presentation from a vaccine supply chain startup, which provides real time tracking of vaccines. The state of Andhra Pradesh is also planning to use Blockchain, while Telangana has partnered with a startup to prevent black marketing of vaccines.

Haryana will go with two platforms for vaccination management – Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN) platform, which has been in use since 2015, when it was devised for the universal immunisation programme. “It basically was a real time repository of data on the vaccine stocks and movement. eVIN also had information on the storage temperatures across cold chain points. This will also have data on the frontline workers to be inoculated; the trained staff; the cold chain and the vaccination sites have also been geo-tagged. The CoWIN platform will also be leveraged,” says, Rajeev Arora, Additional Chief Secretary (Health), Haryana.

Assam has successfully conducted mock drills on the eVIN platform, in three districts. “eVIN was used to track and register people who will come for vaccination at any given site. An SMS is sent to them and there is reliable information on the number of people to be inoculated at a site and at the time decided upon,” says Samir Kumar Sinha. Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, Assam.

IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad recently announced the launch of a grand challenge for strengthening the COVID Vaccine Intelligence Network (CoWIN) system. The challenge invites participation from emerging technology specialists to augment and scale the CoWIN platform. MoHFW has identified seven focus areas of technology development to holistically address the likely limitations associated with complete and effective vaccine distribution system (VDS) and its seamless administration across India. These challenges try to broadly address the priority areas relating to infrastructure, monitoring and management, dynamic learning and information systems, constraints of human resources-including technical capacities, vaccine logistics management and tracking enlisted beneficiaries for any adverse event following immunization on a real time basis.


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