Rajendra K. Aneja outlines the 'must-win' battle against Covid-19
It is the right of all citizens of this world, to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, free of cost, from their governments. All countries need to prepare blueprints to inoculate their citizens within 100 days, of the vaccine being freely available. This is a global challenge. We are short of vaccines now, but we could be flush with them in some months. So, we must galvanise. This 100-Day vaccination challenge should be led by the President or the Prime Minister.
Nations conduct general elections covering their entire populations, within 40 to 60 days. So, inoculating everybody within 100 days, should be feasible.
Covid-19 War Room: Th e President or Prime Minister should establish a 'Covid-19 War Room', which will constitute a central control, with real time information on the inoculations, by region, city, village. Health Ministries should have primary responsibility for executing the 100-Day plan.
Forecasting of Doses: There is need to forecast the precise number of doses the country will require by region, town and village. The Pfizer vaccine needs two jabs; other vaccines will hopefully involve a single jab.
Daily Vaccination Target: There has to be a daily target for inoculation by region and city.This parameter should also be monitored daily.
Boost Vaccine Production: Pfizer can produce 50 million vaccine doses globally in 2020 and 1.3 billion doses in 2021. Even if more vaccines are approved, we could be short, even in 2021. Assuming 80 per cent of the 7.8 billion people worldwide need inoculation, we need 6.24 billion doses. Pharmaceutical companies should augment production exponentially, through their worldwide subsidiaries.
Vaccine Budgets: The Moderna vaccine costs USD 37 per dose. The Serum Institute India, has a target price of USD 3 per dose. Developing continents like South Asia and Africa need the vaccine at about USD 1 per dose. So, the research for cheaper vaccines must continue.
Sourcing Vaccines: The major challenge will be to source the requisite quantities of the vaccine. The USA and European countries have booked vaccines with companies like Pfizer. Developing countries in South Asia and Africa should also start talking to pharmaceutical companies.
Ancillary Equipment: Countries will need vials, syringes, needles, etc., to inoculate millions of citizens. Large population countries like India, Indonesia, Nigeria, etc., should gear private companies to produce ancillary equipment immediately.
Logistical Challenges: Vaccinating entire countries within a few months will be a logistical challenge, requiring rigorous planning. The war on Covid-19, is akin to the D-Day beach landings in Normandy, France, by the Allies in 1944. The vaccine rollout, should be supported by a granular logistical plan. It should cover the schedule of inoculations, storage centres and the retail distribution.
Transporting Vaccines: The vaccines can be transported by planes, trucks and vans in the urban areas. The challenge will be transporting them to small and remote villages, which will necessitate local innovations. The vaccines can be packed in ice cold boxes and be transported on motor cycles and bicycles. Bill Gates gives the inspirational example of men carrying polio vaccines in ice-boxes on their heads and walking through a swollen river, to remote Indian villages.
Storage of Vaccines: Moderna vaccine can be stored at two to eight degree Celsius in an ordinary refrigerator. Its shelf life is 30 days. The storage conditions, transport requirements and shelf lives of the vaccines need to be publicised. The vaccines will have to be stored and transported at specific temperatures, which creates logistical challenges.
Involve Private Companies: Private companies have robust cold chains and distribution systems, reaching remote villages. Companies like Coke, Pepsi, Colgate, Nestle, Unilever and Procter & Gamble will happily lend a shoulder. They have cold chains for ice-cream. Governments should team with private companies, for vaccine distribution. Corporations should divert their annual social responsibility budgets, to the inoculation drives.
Rollout Strategy: To complete the rollout of the vaccine in 100-days, public and private hospitals, should play a pivotal role. The premises of theatres, colleges, schools and sports complexes should also be deployed.
Inoculating Staff: Adequate doctors, para-medical staff and nurses will be needed, to organise the vaccination drive. Medical students should also be roped in for the massive inoculation programme.
Prioritisation in Vaccination: Health workers, involved in the vaccination, should be inoculated on a priority basis. Senior citizens should ideally be inoculated at their homes. Over-crowded slums should also receive priority in developing countries.
Continue Precautions: The vaccines will be rolled out after trials and institutional clearances. However, we are not yet clear about how many dosages will be required or how long the vaccines will remain effective. Sometimes, vaccines take decades to perfect. So, it will be provident to continue precautions like washing, masking and distancing for some time, even after receiving the vaccine.
Spend Money: Some countries may not have adequate money to buy the vaccine. They should not worry about it and must just spend the moneys at this stage. There will be time to recoup expenses later, when the economies normalise. Right now, just spend to save lives and shift the economies from the ICUs onto their feet.
Convince Doubters: In many countries, some people have taken a stand against vaccines. For instance, in the USA, about 50 percent of the population is not in favour of taking the vaccine. These citizens have to be persuaded and convinced to accept the vaccine.
Deploy Media: Communication media like radio and TV should be deployed to convince people to get vaccinated. A professional educational campaign is necessary.
Vaccination Proof: Every person who gets vaccinated, should be given a vaccination card certifying it. People should carry this card, like an identity card. It should be a pre-requisite to travelling by plane or train or even attending public functions.
Must Win Battle: Governments should make the 100-Day rollout work. The world is in a suspended state of ennui, since Covid-19 emerged to haunt us. The economies of nations have stalled. People live in fear and apprehension. When the vaccine comes, we must move with lightning speed. This is a "Must-Win" battle.
Aneja, former Managing Director of Unilever Tanzania, is an alumnus of the Harvard Business School and author of "Rural Marketing Across Countries"
Governments should make the 100-Day rollout work. The world is in a suspended state of ennui, since Covid-19 emerged to haunt us. The economies of nations have stalled. People live in fear and apprehension. When the vaccine comes, we must move with lightning speed