Infosys co-founder and the brain behind Aadhaar Nandan Nilekani has said the model followed for the 12-digit biometric identity system can help India deploy a “massive vaccination programme that can cover 3-5 million people daily”.
“… we have 1.25 billion people who have a unique Aadhaar identity, we can create a massive vaccination programme. We must ensure that everybody gets a digital certificate with the date of vaccination, name of the vaccine and through which vendor and at what location,” Nilekani told The Economic Times.
He said the Aadhaar model was built to enrol 1.5 million people a day. "We can easily think of building a vaccination system that vaccinates 3-5 million people a day," he said.
If India manages to vaccinate 50-60 percent, it will vaccine-induced herd immunity. "That would be the longer-term solution, I mean four to five months from now,” Nilekani said.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
On the outbreak, he said efforts would have to be “redoubled” and behavioural changes such as wearing of masks and social distancing should continue. Testing, contact-tracing and quarantines would have to continue to suppress the spread.
“We are fortunate that India is the vaccine capital of the world. By January, you should see at least a couple of vaccines in the market. We have amazing firms such as Serum Institute that can make a billion vaccines or more, and six to seven (other) such companies doing domestic research or licensing,” he added.
These companies had the capability to make “100 million vaccines a month”, which would also be sufficient to supply to other countries, Nilekani said.
He was also of the opinion that India stands to gain in the post-COVID-19 world as disruptions had forced the world to look for manufacturing prowess elsewhere, the report said.
Nilekani said the pandemic was a “significant opportunity” for India to emerge as an alternative, even for the US which has a 20-year manufacturing relationship with China.He acknowledged that India may not be able to do what China has done in terms of creating the great firewall but should instead remain an open economy and create digital public goods such as Aadhaar, UPI and the national digital health mission.