India, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of vaccines, is planning to supply 20 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to its neighbors. The covid-19 vaccines will be bought by an Indian state-run firm, the Serum Institute of India Ltd and Bharat Biotech International Ltd and then supply to countries namely Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Seychelles, and Mauritius.
The Serum Institute is manufacturing a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc while Bharat Biotech’s vaccine is a local one.
According to information gathered by international news agency, Bloomberg, the first batch of vaccines is said to be shipped over the next two weeks. The Indian government will offer vaccines to countries in Latin America, Africa, and the former Soviet republics as well.
The unidentified sources also mentioned that some of those vaccines might be free and treated as aid from India. However, a spokesperson for Bharat Biotech couldn’t immediately comment while a spokesman at Serum declined to comment.
This additional stock of vaccines is in addition to that which Mauritius has secured under the Covax Initiative and covering 20% of the population. The country has set itself the goal of vaccinating 60% of its population.
Vaccination Campaign: Awareness and Training
The Ministry of Health has already announced the planning of a national awareness campaign about anti-Covid-19 vaccination while waiting for the stock to arrive. The approach is to explain that anti-Covid-19 vaccination is not to break a chain of contamination but rather to create collective immunity within the population. This, in order to be able to reopen the borders and revive the country’s economy, said Health Minister Kailesh Kumar Jagutpal.
To be ready for the vaccination campaign, around 300 staff assigned to the Health Promotion Unit and the Vaccination Unit of 5 regional hospitals, as well as Social Security officers will receive five half-day training. The aim is to prepare the staff before the vaccines arrive in Mauritius.
“Our situation is different from other countries where vaccination is the only option to curb the number of cases. With us, it is to create collective immunity that will allow us to address another aspect, that is, the reopening of our borders and allow economic recovery, ” said the Minister of Health.
The anti-Covid-19 campaign will be based on the District Health Information System. Through the vaccination module, the system will allow better monitoring of patients and determine who should have a second dose of vaccine. A five-day specific training session was launched on Monday, January 11, for those who will be responsible for administering the vaccine. Among guidelines that participants must understand, one is the specificity of each vaccine and the date when the booster vaccine should be given, among others.
Logistics: Maintaining the cold chain
Mauritius will benefit from the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) for the establishment of logistics for the storage of vaccines. An expert is already in Mauritius. He will provide support in terms of the arrangements that need to be made to maintain the cold chain for any type of Covid-19 vaccine.
Depending on the specifics of each vaccine, different arrangements will have to be made. This is because the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine requires storage at -70 degrees. The facilities for this type of storage are not available in Mauritius but as the products will be transported in a cubicle, all means will have to be implemented to maintain the cold chain. This type of vaccine should be used quickly and should be given in two doses. The Astra Zeneca vaccine can be stored at a temperature between 2 and 8 degrees and is also a double dose vaccine.
Criticisms: Lack of Transparency and Incompetency
However, MP and Leader of opposition party MMM, Paul Bérenger shared a different opinion and criticized the government’s poor management of the Covid-19 vaccine file. He also highlighted that there is no transparency when it comes to when the Ministry of Health ordered the vaccines. He goes even further, claiming that Minister Kailesh Jugutpal was wrong to say that there is no rush to get people vaccinated in Mauritius.
Paul Bérenger asked that letters sent to and from the pharmaceutical companies should be publicly released. “This shows the incompetency and bluffing of the Ministry of Health,” he argued.