India’s jumbo-sized vaccine rollout in numbers

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NEW DELHI, Jan 16, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – India begins one of the world’s biggest
coronavirus vaccination programmes on Saturday, hoping to end a pandemic that
has killed 150,000 people in the country and torpedoed the economy.

AFP looks at the numbers involved in the vast and complex undertaking
compounded by weak infrastructure, online hoaxes and security and safety
worries:

– 300 million people –

Over the coming months, India aims to inoculate around a quarter of the
population, or 300 million people. They include healthcare workers, people
aged over 50 and those at high risk.

On the first day, around 300,000 people will be vaccinated at 3,000
centres. About 150,000 staff in 700 districts have been trained to administer
jabs and keep records.

The government aims to manage the entire process digitally with its own
app, CoWIN, which will link every vaccine dose to its recipient.

– 45,000 fridges (and one bike) –

India has four “mega depots” to take delivery of the vaccines and
transport them to state distribution hubs in temperature-controlled vans,
keeping the doses colder than 8 degrees Celsius (46.4 Fahrenheit).

A total of 29,000 cold-chain points, 240 walk-in coolers, 70 walk-in
freezers, 45,000 ice-lined refrigerators, 41,000 deep freezers and 300 solar
fridges are at the ready.

These will be needed once the Indian summer arrives in the coming months.

In one recent practice run in a rural area, a consignment of dummy
vaccines was photographed being delivered by bicycle.

– Three seconds –

To stop any of the vials being stolen and being sold on India’s large
drugs black market, authorities are taking no chances, with armed police
guarding every truck.

CCTVs are in place at warehouses with entry subject to fingerprint
authentication. Automated data loggers will monitor storage temperature and
transfer messages every three seconds to a central unit, according to the
Times of India.

“Security measures are essential to not only address the issue of
logistics and safety but also build confidence in people that the supply
chain is intact, unbroken and safe to the point of delivery,” Preeti Kumar, a
public health specialist, told AFP.

– 200 rupees per dose –

India has ordered an initial 11 million doses of Covishield, AstraZeneca’s
vaccine made by India’s Serum Institute, at 200 rupees ($2.74) each, and 5.5
million doses of Covaxin at 206 rupees each.

The government’s “emergency approval” of Covaxin, made by India’s Bharat
Biotech, has some doctors worried because Phase 3 human trials are yet to be
completed.

Authorities say that people will be given two doses of one of the vaccines
— and not one of each — 28 days apart. Effectiveness begins 14 days after
the second shot, they say.

Serum plans later to sell the jab privately to Indian individuals and
firms for 1,000 rupees ($14), raising fears that the rich will get inoculated
sooner.

– 69 percent in no hurry –

A recent survey of 18,000 people across India found that 69 percent were
in no rush to get a Covid-19 shot, in part due to public scepticism fuelled
by online disinformation.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan took to social media on Thursday to dispel
some of the doubts.

“There is no scientific evidence to suggest that #COVIDVaccine could cause
infertility in either men or women. Kindly do not pay heed to such rumours or
information from unverified sources,” he said in one tweet.

– And one Brazilian plane –

Other developing countries are banking on India for getting vaccines.
Brazil is reportedly sending a plane to India this weekend in the hope of
collecting two million doses from Serum.

India plans to offer 20 million doses to its neighbours, with the first
batches shipped over the next two weeks, Bloomberg News reported. Latin
America, Africa and ex-Soviet republics will be next.