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View from India: Tech-led mass vaccination to roll out

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India is preparing for one of the world’s biggest inoculation drives, as the first phase will begin on 16 January. The community of healthcare and frontline workers, which makes for around 30 million people, will be given priority.

The Health Ministry has indicated to the media that the priority list will be followed by the voluntary vaccination category. This includes people over 50 years of age as well as the under-50 population groups with co-morbidities, numbering around 270 million.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that the country is preparing to save humanity with two 'Made in India' Covid-19 vaccines. These are Covishield, developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University, and Covaxin by local firm Bharat Biotech. India’s drugs regulatory authority, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), has approved the jabs for their established safety and immunogenicity. These vaccines are for emergency use approval. Other vaccines in the pipeline are Zydus Cadila's ZyCov-D, which has been approved for phase three trials, Russia’s Sputnik vaccine that has a tie-up with Dr Reddy's and the Pfizer-Biotech vaccine. 

Dry runs of Covishield and Covaxin have already been conducted across the country in a phased manner. This has helped to gauge issues of logistics and vaccine delivery mechanisms. 200,000 vaccinators along with programme managers and other team members have been trained to execute the process throughout states, districts and blocks.

The vaccination exercise is underpinned by the principles of people’s participation (Jan Bhagidari), utilising experience of elections (booth strategy) and the Universal Immunisation Program (UIP).

Given the scale involved, this in itself is a mammoth task. Understandably, technology will be leveraged for this massive immunisation drive. A one-stop digitisation platform has been put in place titled Co-WIN – an acronym for Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network. Individuals can register on the Co-WIN portal as well as a mobile app, which is yet to roll out. The Aadhaar Card, which has a 12-digit number exclusive to each individual, will be used for authentication during the registration process.

Co-WIN Vaccine Delivery Management System, a unique digital platform, will provide real-time information of vaccine stocks, their storage, temperature and individualised tracking of beneficiaries of the Covid-19 vaccine. This platform will assist the programme managers across all levels through automated session allocation for pre-registered beneficiaries, their verification and for generating a digital certificate upon successful completion of the vaccine schedule. More than 7.9 million beneficiaries have already been registered on the platform.

The Co-WIN app, which is being developed by the Union Health Ministry, is an upgraded version of the eVIN or Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network. This is how it will work.

The app comprises five modules: administrator, registration, vaccination, beneficiary acknowledgment and report. The administrator module facilitates bulk registration.

The dashboard will provide various details about the person being vaccinated. This includes the name, age, mobile number, vaccination status, date and time of vaccination, place of vaccination, session site, health facility and name of vaccinator.

Co-WIN also offers options for SMS alerts through a status update module. The SMS alerts are available in 12 languages. A QR code-based vaccination certificate will be issued after all the doses. This can be stored on the mobile phone. Upon completing the vaccination, individuals are issued an electronic vaccination certificate.

The app or website will throw open three preferences for registration, namely self-registration, individual registration, and bulk upload. The website has features like 24x7 helpline and a chat box with pattern recognition. A digital locker for integrated data retrieval will also be made available.

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