India has the capacity to store vaccines that may require a lower temperature in the range of minus 15 to minus 20 degrees Celsius and there are over 29,000 cold chain points (CCPs) across the country where vaccines are stored at the recommended temperatures, the Centre has told the Supreme Court.
In an affidavit filed in the apex court in a suo motu case on distribution of essential supplies and services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centre has said that at present, the two vaccines — Covishield and Covaxin — are required to be stored at a temperature range of two to eight degrees Celsius.
The Centre has said the requirement for cold storage may change with the arrival of other COVID-19 vaccines in the future and it is fully prepared to take appropriate steps as and when such vaccines are available. "The country also has the capacity to store vaccines which may require a lower temperature in the range of minus 15 to minus 20 degrees Centigrade. The Sputnik V vaccine requires storage at minus 18 degrees Centigrade," said the affidavit filed on Saturday.
"It is submitted that there are more than 29,000 cold chain points (CCPs) across the country in states/UTs, where the vaccines are stored at recommended temperatures," it said, adding, "Of the above CCPs, four national level stores i.e. Government Medical Store Depot (GMSD) are managed by the Government of India and the remaining are managed by the respective state/UT governments," it added. It said there are 37 state vaccine stores, 114 regional vaccine stores, 723 district vaccine stores and 28,268 sub-district vaccine stores.
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.
The affidavit said that based on the requirement of both the universal immunisation programme and COVID-19 vaccination, the government has centrally procured and supplied cold chain equipment (CCE) to the states and Union territories (UTs). "Further, funds are allocated to the states/UTs under the National Health Mission-Programme Implementation Plan (NHM-PIP) for maintenance of CCEs and also for provisioning cold chain technicians (CCTs) for undertaking the repair and maintenance of CCEs," it said.
The affidavit said there are 29,116 CCPs, located from the national to the sub-district level across the country, which have CCEs like walk-in coolers, walk-in freezers, ice-lined refrigerators, deep freezers, cold boxes for the storage of vaccines and freezing of ice packs. "The capacity of these CCPs has been augmented for the COVID-19 vaccination drive," it said.
The affidavit said the cold storage equipment procured by the government through the domestic budget is indigenously manufactured. "The cold storage equipment supplied as aid by the donors i.e. UNICEF constitutes both indigenously-manufactured equipment and imported equipment," it said.