The encouraging results from human trials of coronavirus vaccine, developed by American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, brighten the hopes of finding a solution to the prolonged pandemic. The announcement that the Pfizer vaccine was found to be 90% effective brings cheer to the world at a time when there is a surge in Covid cases across many countries. However, it is still a long way to go as the logistics for making the Covid-19 vaccine available to Indian citizens needs to be worked out. The Centre must come out with a clearly-defined vaccine distribution strategy. Pfizer, which has developed the vaccine in collaboration with German firm BioNTech, has released the data from the late-stage human trials involving over 40,000 volunteers. Governments across the world are satisfied with the results of the trial and there is a growing hope that it might bring a halt to the Covid-19 disease, which has already killed over 1.2 million people across the globe. While development of a vaccine at such a breakneck speed with such levels of efficiency is nothing short of a miracle, the Pfizer vaccine throws up a major logistical challenge because it needs to be stored at a temperature of -70°C. This presents a huge challenge for storage and transportation of the vaccine, particularly for a tropical country like India where the traditional cold storage and supply systems, meant for agricultural produce, are insufficient for the task. Though India has the wherewithal to manufacture the required number of vaccine doses, its storage and transportation infrastructure needs major upgradation.
Vaccines are delicate products that can be damaged in excessive heat and light. A temperature-controlled supply chain is crucial to their transport and storage, especially in a vast country like India. There is a need to actively collaborate with private players in the logistics domain to ensure safe delivery of the vaccine within stipulated timelines and compliance parameters. With about eight vaccine candidates nearing completion of clinical trials and the whole world waiting with bated breath to put an end to the ordeal, the next big challenge is how to deliver the vaccine doses to hospitals and pharmacies safely and how soon the entire population can be vaccinated. Since each Covid-19 vaccine requires a different set of temperature conditions and handling procedures, robust infrastructure of cold chain facilities for transport and storage becomes critical before administering to the masses. With efficacy of the vaccine being established and the endgame in the public health crisis drawing closer, the next big challenge is ensuring its universal access. It will take multiple vaccine candidates to get the global population vaccinated. For that, it is crucial that other vaccines too should prove effective.
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