India has been hit by the second wave in February 2021 and the rise in number of cases has been exponential afterwards. Today, the daily average crosses 89,800. The country has to rapidly ramp up the vaccination program. With less than 10% of India’s population getting access to the vaccination, shortage of vaccines have been reported in multiple parts of the country.
The big question: Is our supply chain ready to provide COVID vaccines for all adults? How robust is the supply chain planning for a new product with completely different requirements than the conventional food grains etc that the government has experienced in the past?
The challenge stays in the logistics of the supply chain, especially when we are lack cold chain storage and transportation infrastructure in the country. States like Jharkhand, UP and Bihar will lag behind more urbanized states like Gujarat and will have to manage with limited resources. India currently has about 27,000 cold chain points, 700 reefer vans, 76,000 cold chain equipment and 55,000 cold chain handlers as part of its vaccine logistics network. To achieve the goal of the first phase of the covid vaccination campaign, the public sector distribution capacity will need to be expand 2-3 times.
While the government confidently asserts that plans are in place for supplying additional cold chain equipment, a vaccination program of this scale will need close monitoring and supportive supervision at all levels to identify bottlenecks and issues faced at the grassroot level. Organization like WHO and UNICEF are also providing operational and technical support to the government.
There are still few points that need to be taken note of, in order to overcome the challenges of cold chain infrastructure for vaccine distribution across India.
1: Optimise Batches: Prepare a series of vaccine skews that match the transport capacity (standard size of our trucking fleet and railway rakes) with safe lanes.
2: Perform root cause analytics: Managing the reverse logistics for such contaminated vaccines need to be administered along with the blacklisting of “careless” transportation partners.
3: 24*7 Control Tower: Continuous monitoring through tracking and timely action by combining people with technology can be just the need of this pandemic time.
4: Blockchain: Following an effective vaccine tracking starting from the manufacturer’s plant to being administered at a remote corner of India will be of great help.