How India is using tech to monitor Covid-19 vaccine distribution
Published 24 March 2021
A former Indian Prime Minister had an interesting take on social welfare schemes.
For every dollar spent on welfare schemes, only 15 cents reach the beneficiary. So, when COVID-19 vaccination rollouts were announced, many people in the county had similar doubts.
Would there be cases of vacciantion for some and not for others?
As COVID-19 cases surge in India, technology is being used to monitor effective vaccine delivery in India. The second largest country, with 1.3 billion people, India over the past 3 months have vaccinated around 35 million people.
India’s vaccination drive has so far been done in two phases. In Phase I, healthcare and other essential workers were administered the vaacine. In Phase II- people aged 60 and above, as well as those who are above 45 (with co-morbidities) are undergoing vaccination.
India has a federal structure of governance, similar to the UK and US. It is here that Central and State governments have to work in conjunction with each other, to ensure that the vaccination drive is efficient.
Take the case of Bengaluru-based Intugine Technologies. The startup has partnered with the Government of Andra Pradesh to ensure safe and efficient distribution of Covid-19 vaccine across the state.
Intugine is a logistics technology company and provides real time tracking and supply chain optimization solutions to the likes of Walmart-owned Flipkart, Philips, Mahindra Logistics and Arvind Fashion.
Government’s jab with tech
The Government of Andhra Pradesh has taken a proactive step towards minimising transit times through real-time visibility and exception response. Intugine will use portable GPS devices to facilitate real time tracking of vaccines in transit.
Intugine’s CEO Harshit Shrivastava pointed out that vaccine distribution is a temperature critical process and therefore transit times have to be controlled.
Vaccine supply chain, across the globe, is expected to face theft and counterfeiting risks. The Government of Andhra Pradesh aims to build protective safeguards against such risks.
Mission Director, NHM, Government of Andhra Pradesh, Bhaskar Katamneni, IAS said: “We wanted to establish control over long distance movement of vaccines from the state storage centre to different district storage centers. We wanted to monitor this movement in real time and ensure a timely response in case of any unforeseen exceptions.”
Intugine’s end to end visibility platform facilitates route planning & vehicle allocation, digital indenting, in-warehouse tracking, in-transit tracking, digital invoicing and data driven planning.
The company is in talks with several other Indian states to implement a similar real time visibility solution for vaccine distribution.
Intugine Technologies had previously played an important role in containing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, Intugine had repurposed their real time visibility solution to help the Indian states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Nagaland, Goa, Meghalaya and Madhya Pradesh among other states are using this to monitor home quarantined individuals and ensure social distancing.
“Last year we facilitated the monitoring of over 600,000 home quarantined individuals without flouting any privacy considerations. This year we aim to facilitate efficient distribution of vaccines across the country.” said Ayush Agrawal, Cofounder, Intugine Technologies.
Similar to Intiguine, is Pluss Advanced Technologies, a Tata Capital-backed energy storage company has developed a Phase Change Materials (PCMs) solution, called Celsure. PCM technology has the ability to absorb, store and release large amounts of latent heat over a defined temperature range and can act as a thermal barrier which keeps the vaccine stable. “PCMs are ideal for thermal energy storage as they are highly cost effective, stable, environment friendly and maintain desired temperature without the need for external source of energy,” said Vineet Chadha, Partner, Tata Capital Innovations Fund, which is a part of Tata Capital. Tata Capital is a part of the the $100 billion Tata Group.
Typically, vaccines are stored in low temperature freezers and doses are better planned in cases such as polio. In the case of Covid-19, the numbers are daunting. According to WHO estimates, more than 50 per cent of vaccines may be wasted globally every year because of temperature control, logistics and shipment-related issues.
StaTwig, a Hyderabad-based company has come up with a COVID-19 vaccine distribution platform through blockchain. In the case of pharma companies, there is visibility in extended supply chain, the location, distribution of products and how long they stay in the warehouses. This information is useful to generate actionable insights, to ensure quality and safety and helps in building a blockchain solution.
More enhancements needed
So far, the Indian government has done a commendable job, by not allowing black marketers from taking over vaccine distribution.
However, industry watchers feel, more can be done, especially in wider monitoring and a co-ordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The government can use this opportunity to pilot new technologies at scale and open up vaccine distribution to other stakeholders,” said Ankit Jhanwar, Vice President- Strategy, Pluss Advanced Technologies. Having said that, it is a commendable job by the government, which has to oversee a country with a billion people, added Jhanwar.
Well begun is half done. As cases of COVID-19 has risen in the past two weeks, governments across the Asian continent which represents almost of the earth’s population, must be hoping that the same technology, which has been labelled as ‘evil’, can also do some ‘good’.