As we inch closer to the massive national Covid-19 immunisation drive, steps to ensure tracking of vaccines once in circulation in the market has begun.
This is will be critical for various reasons – to spot the entry of spurious vaccines in the supply chain, to recall batches in case of any adverse event or manufacturing error, to ensure that the person getting the vaccine gets two shots of the same vaccine from the same manufacturer.
Not-for-profit global organisations like GS1, which develop standards for business communication (one of them is barcodes) has already submitted a concept paper to the Centre on the same. They are the only outfit authorised under the Ministry of Commerce in India to issue barcodes.
Speaking to Business Standard, S Swaminathan, COO, GS1 India said that they have approached the government think tank NITI Aayog and already submitted a concept paper to the government. He feels that currently while barcoding is being used extensively by manufacturers and people in the supply chain, the system is working in ‘silos’.
“Every system is working in silos – they are not connected. The manufacturer has their own system of traceability, the distributors and others in the supply chain have another, and the last mile or the hospitals would run their own systems. There is no central database,” Swaminathan says.
He feels that if the government can develop an application and give it everyone in the distribution chain, then tracking and tracing of vaccine batches would become easier. “What one has to do is when someone in the chain receives the package(vaccine) they scan the barcode and the data goes into the system and when they release the package or deliver it to a point they scan again. The data can be captured till the last mile then,” he explains.
Tracking is important as one would need to recall batches in case of any adverse impact, and also spot a spurious vaccine entering the supply chain at any point.
A vaccine maker says, “We have designated barcodes for our products.
It is impossible to track every barcode we send out into the market, but in case of Covid19 the situation is different. Since there would be a massive demand for this vaccine there are chances of spurious products entering the system. We will take appropriate action.”
Swaminathan feels that there has to be a common platform or mechanism through which Covid19 vaccines from different sources will be tracked.
A government official in the know said that the supply chain management committee on vaccines was working on these aspects of logistics already. “The IT bit of logistics management is very much a part of the plan. We are discussing with experts on how to implement it effectively. In Covid19 vaccination drive, it is important to ensure that someone who gets one vaccine shot comes back at the right time for the second one and also gets the same vaccine from the same manufacturer,” the official noted.
The system can be linked to Aarogya Setu mobile app too as well the Aadhar ID. Through Aarogya Setu one can get a notification to go for repeat vaccination and Aadhar would help to track the person in case there has been any recall and take necessary action.
Swaminathan also says that real-time monitoring of vaccine movement would be a key to spot spurious products “If a particular batch has been sent to lets say Bhopal and it crops up somewhere in the north eastern parts of the country, then one has to suspect some foul play and can investigate,” he says.
GS1 concept paper says that benefits of multi-stakeholder traceability system in vaccine supply chain are:
# Real-time knowledge and recording of what (batch number, vaccine unit and dosage) is administered to whom
# This could be made possible by linking unit and dosage with digital ID / Aadhaar number
# Ability to swift and targeted recalls, whenever required
# Real-time knowledge of what stocks are lying where in the supply chain, from point of manufacturing to point of dispensing
# Real-time monitoring and recording of temperature to ensure that right temperature was maintained throughout the supply chain – storage and transportation
# Enable counterfeit detection at the point of entry in the supply chain and mitigation of risks through investigating