India will also be a role model on how to vaccinate a billion: Nilekani

Nandan Nilekani, founding architect of Aadhaar and co-founder of Infosys
With India rolling out vaccination efforts against Covid-19, Nandan Nilekani, founding architect of Aadhaar and co-founder of Infosys on Friday said that the country will be a role model on how to vaccinate a billion people at scale, speed and in a trusted manner.

“I actually believe that if we do all the right things, India will also be a role model on how to vaccinate a billion people at scale speed, and in a trusted manner,” said Nilekani at ‘Ground Zero 4.0 | Scaling Up’ event organised by research firm RedSeer Consulting. “A lot of the work happening in the government is actually to create a highly scalable vaccination infrastructure.”

The government has created CoWIN (Covid-19 Vaccine Intelligence Network) which is a repurposed version of eVIN (Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network). It was created in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The goal is to ensure last-mile delivery of Covid vaccine.

According to Nilekani, there is a vaccine scarcity situation in the country at present. He said the vaccines have to be allocated based on priorities. India is currently inoculating 30 million health care and frontline workers. The second phase of the programme will include 270 million people over 50 and those with underlying medical conditions pr compromised immunity that make them vulnerable to coronavirus.

But Nilekani expects that in the six months, the country will actually have a vaccine surplus. He said this is because the Serum Institute of India (SII) is scaling up its vaccine production to 100 million doses per month. Then there is Covaxin,  India's indigenous Covid-19 vaccine by Bharat Biotech which is developed in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)  National Institute of Virology (NIV). Another company Johnson & Johnson is also creating one of the most closely watched Covid-19 vaccines, as it is a single-dose shot that should be relatively easy to dispense. Nilekani said most of the other vaccines are dual dose. Also, there is Pfizer vaccine and Dr. Reddy's Laboratories is bringing Russian Covid-19 vaccine candidate Sputnik V.

“So you can assume in the next  4-5 months, the vaccine production of India will be more than ample to vaccinate (large number of) people,” said Nilekani. “At that time, you need to combine both the government vaccination infrastructure which exists today with private infrastructure very much like the Aadhaar enrollment and if you have to scale up to a few million vaccinations per day.”

But what's important, Nilekani said is that the vaccination should be recorded online and in real-time with proper authentication of identity. This would ensure that the person gets the message to come back in a few weeks for the next vaccination process. 

“And everybody should be issued a vaccination certificate,” said Nilekani.

He said the government has done a great job as it is issuing digital vaccination certificates which are QR (quick-response) coded to everybody who gets vaccinated. This certificate can be kept on the phone, DigiLocker or one can take a printout.

“For example, if I go to the airport and want to board a plane, and they want to see my vaccination certificate,” said Nilekani. “I can just show it to them and they can use a QR code smartphone reader and confirm that it's a genuine certificate.”

India is the first country in the world which has actually implemented the infrastructure for vaccination certificates, according to Nilekani.

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