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Ramping Up Cold Storage Facilities Critical As India Preps For COVID-19 Vaccine: Experts

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said earlier this week that the government expects to receive and utilise 400-500 million vaccine doses for COVID-19, and cover approximately 20-25 crore people by July 2021

Ramping Up Cold Storage Facilities Critical As India Preps For COVID-19 Vaccine: Experts
Highlights
  • Some vaccine frontrunners could hit the market by early next year
  • To receive and utilise 400-500 million vaccine doses for COVID-19: Govt
  • Vaccine candidates by Moderna and Pfizer will require stringent standards

New Delhi: The safe delivery of vaccines for mass immunisation against COVID-19 is a massive challenge and India will need to significantly ramp up its cold chain facilities, say experts as the world’s second most populous nation moves into the next stage of management of the disease and looks towards a preventive. With most frontrunner vaccine candidates likely to require extra cold’ storage, the private sector could also be roped in for effective delivery of a preventive when it is available, suggest several experts and industry insiders.

Some vaccine frontrunners are in advanced stages of trial and could hit the market by early next year, making the task of securing last mile connectivity and ensuring that nothing goes wrong before the shot is administered more urgent.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said earlier this week that the government expects to receive and utilise 400-500 million vaccine doses for COVID-19, and cover approximately 20-25 crore people by July 2021.

Also Read: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal Talks About Lockdown And How India Is Coping Up With The Virus On #SwasthyaMantra Telethon

The Centre has also reportedly directed states to make a robust plan for vaccine storage and distribution by October 15. Most if not all the current frontrunners require extremely stringent cold chains, making them immensely challenging for India to implement, said Satyajit Rath from New Delhi’s National Institute of Immunology (NII).

The immunologist noted that some COVID-19 vaccines will need storage temperatures that simply cannot be realistically managed in any large-scale Indian campaign. He said the real problems will arise once vaccines are ready to go into the market.

Vaccine candidates by Moderna and Pfizer will require stringent standards for refrigeration that may hamper how they are distributed to millions of people across India’s length and breadth, according to scientists.

Unlike drugs, virtually all vaccines need to be transported at cold temperatures, usually between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, said Raghavan Varadarajan, professor at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru. The necessity is to keep the vaccine product cold, either refrigerated or frozen.

Also Read: Health Ministry Launches Web Portal For Updates On COVID-19 Vaccine Development

This is a constraint especially with large numbers of doses, Varadarajan told PTI, explaining the particular problems of India that has a population of 1.3 billion, second only to China. Many vaccines lose potency when exposed to higher temperatures, he said, and re-cooling does not help.

Thus we need what is called the cold chain of handling before use, said Varadarajan whose team at IISc is working on a warm vaccine that can be stored for over a month at 37 degrees Celsius, and needs no cold chain for storage.

Pawanexh Kohli, the founding CEO of India’s National Centre for Cold-Chain Development (NCCD), agreed that protocols will require COVID-19 vaccines to be kept between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, while in transport and storage until delivery. The Moderna vaccine candidate is shipped in minus 20 degrees Celsius and held at 2-4 degrees for seven days. The Pfizer (vaccine) that requires minus 70 degrees temperatures, Kohli, honorary professor of post-harvest Logistics at the University of Birmingham in the UK, told PTI.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use a synthetic version of genetic material from part of the coronavirus. The genetic material called messenger RNA (mRNA) then prompts the cells to make a tiny piece of the virus, which the immune system recognises as foreign. If the person is later exposed to the real virus, the immune system will attack it.

Noting that RNA vaccines have never been used on humans, Dr Vardhan said it is possible high temperatures can affect these structures and thus affect the efficacy of the formulation.

Also Read: Highly Effective Coronavirus Antibodies Identified, May Lead To Passive COVID-19 Vaccine

While a bulk of the vaccines will be distributed through the Centre’s Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) mechanism, experts also suggest that the government rope in private cold chain operators.

The vast scale of India’s UIP is supported by more than 27,000 functional cold chain points of which 750 (3 per cent) are located at the district level and above. The rest are located below the district level, according to the government’s comprehensive multi-year UIP plan for 2018-22. This includes 76,000 cold chain ‘equipment’, 2.5 million health workers, and 55,000 cold chain staff, the plan report said.

Cold chain logistics involves many moving parts, including cold storage facilities that store products waiting to be transported, cooling systems to keep it at an appropriate temperature during all aspects of the supply chain such as storing and transporting. Gel packsare alsooften used for medical and pharmaceutical shipments.

Approximately 390 million doses are administered annually at nine million sessions held across the country to immunise 26 million children and 30 million pregnant women, it said. Noting that cold storage protocols are well established in India, Mr Kohli said the public health network is limited in capacity.

Luckily, the food cold chain has synergistic use for this purpose and should assist in this battle. Existing cold chain enterprises may need to allocate specific resources in their network, noted Mr Kohli.

Also Read: Coronavirus Explainer: What Is COVAX Initiative?

He added that the food cold chain has the maximum reach, with extensive last mile connectivity, and will require minor redesign to designate storage space and transport load for this purpose. Almost every cold chain owner I have spoken to is willing to contribute space and assets towards this, should the need arise, Mr Kohli added. Mr Kohli also believes that India must restructure with purpose to start and finish the immunisation programme within a short time period to be effective.

Even if the vaccine is ready, the programme should not be commenced until the last mile for administering the vaccine is prepared, he said. According to the World Heatlh Organisation, at the higher levels of the cold chain, i.e. at primary and regional intermediate stores, the oral polio vaccine must be kept frozen between minus 15 degrees Celsius and minus 25 degrees Celsius. At other levels of the cold chain, the vaccines should be stored between 2 degrees Celsius and 8 degrees Celsius.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.) 

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.  

World

24,00,62,413Cases
20,17,73,183Active
3,33,99,961Recovered
48,89,269Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 24,00,62,413 and 48,89,269 have died; 20,17,73,183 are active cases and 3,33,99,961 have recovered as on October 16, 2021 at 4:08 am.

India

3,40,53,573 15,981Cases
2,01,6322,046Active
3,33,99,961 17,861Recovered
4,51,980 166Deaths
In India, there are 3,40,53,573 confirmed cases including 4,51,980 deaths. The number of active cases is 2,01,632 and 3,33,99,961 have recovered as on October 16, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

65,88,429 2,149

33,379 222

64,15,316 1,898

1,39,734 29

Kerala

48,38,811 8,867

95,349 1,072

47,16,728 9,872

26,734 67

Karnataka

29,82,869 470

9,700 93

29,35,238 368

37,931 9

Tamil Nadu

26,84,641 1,245

15,238 213

26,33,534 1,442

35,869 16

Andhra Pradesh

20,59,708 586

6,453 135

20,38,960 712

14,295 9

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,014 6

133 2

16,86,984 8

22,897

West Bengal

15,79,463 451

7,513 63

15,52,997 506

18,953 8

Delhi

14,39,337 26

327 10

14,13,921 36

25,089

Odisha

10,34,276 467

4,817 73

10,21,180 535

8,279 5

Chhattisgarh

10,05,624 10

197 6

9,91,857 16

13,570

Rajasthan

9,54,383 1

40 2

9,45,389 3

8,954

Gujarat

8,26,258 14

212 3

8,15,960 17

10,086

Madhya Pradesh

7,92,675 6

106 5

7,82,046 11

10,523

Haryana

7,71,049 14

116 11

7,60,884 3

10,049

Bihar

7,26,021 5

46 4

7,16,314 1

9,661

Telangana

6,68,722 104

4,056 115

6,60,730 218

3,936 1

Assam

6,05,944 97

3,458 188

5,96,547 284

5,939 1

Punjab

6,01,992 21

228 6

5,85,224 25

16,540 2

Jharkhand

3,48,415 9

130 0

3,43,150 9

5,135

Uttarakhand

3,43,739 10

179 4

3,36,163 6

7,397

Jammu And Kashmir

3,30,885 51

895 40

3,25,564 91

4,426

Himachal Pradesh

2,21,203 90

1,361 26

2,16,125 114

3,717 2

Goa

1,77,410 54

648 31

1,73,423 81

3,339 4

Puducherry

1,27,296 37

611 36

1,24,836 73

1,849

Manipur

1,22,545 113

1,444 0

1,19,208 109

1,893 4

Mizoram

1,11,651 932

13,316 285

97,955 1,211

380 6

Tripura

84,299 4

102 8

83,381 12

816

Meghalaya

82,815 81

893 1

80,490 79

1,432 1

Chandigarh

65,297 2

30 2

64,447 4

820

Arunachal Pradesh

54,964 6

183 19

54,501 25

280

Sikkim

31,739 17

189 35

31,159 51

391 1

Nagaland

31,547 31

228 2

30,645 32

674 1

Ladakh

20,871 4

42 2

20,621 6

208

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,675

3 0

10,668

4

Lakshadweep

10,365

1 1

10,313 1

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,641 1

9 1

7,503 2

129

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