The vaccine’s last mile problem

Source: This post is based on the article “The vaccine’s last-mile problem” published in The Hindu on 31st August 2021.

Relevance: Universalisation of vaccination programme.

Synopsis: In vaccination programmes, which have complex delivery requirements, the last mile means to make or break.

Context

The article highlights the problem of increased inequalities in vaccination, which have been aggravated by the Covid pandemic. Now, as vaccines are becoming available, the next important task is to vaccinate the whole world.

This is especially true for the most vulnerable people or places like the mountains of Afghanistan and Amazon, nomadic populations etc. The debates over vaccine nationalism, intellectual properties or technology transfer should not be allowed to stifle the drive of vaccinating the entire world.

What are the issues that require immediate attention?

For vaccines, to be delivered to everyone, we need to address the following challenges:

  1. Logistical Issues: There is a need to address logistical challenges like cold chain delivery requirements, supply chains etc.
  2. Infrastructure: There is a need to provide proper transport infrastructure, electricity availability to store vaccines.
  3. Health system: For the successful rollout of vaccines, there is a need to upgrade the health infrastructure with proper training to vaccinators to full availability of health staff.
  4. Communication: Communities should be fully aware of the purpose of the vaccination drive.
  5. Sustainability: There is a need to ensure sustainable methods to dispose of medical waste generated from the vaccination drives.
What are the long term benefits of extensive vaccination?

The extensive vaccination drive may also provide certain long term benefits. Such as:

  • It provides the opportunity to build resilient health systems.
  • If the infrastructure was created in a sustainable way at present, then it will serve the communities after the pandemic also. For instance, the solar water heaters, cold chain facilities, medical waste incinerators, etc can be used by the local community for the long term.

The pandemic revealed the inequalities and also the gaps in our health infrastructure. Thus, it should be seen as an opportunity to revitalize our health infrastructure and health systems.

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