India is offering the CoWIN platform to the world as a technology tool that can be used for greater public good as the need of the hour is to speed up the pace of vaccinating people against COVID-19, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Monday. Addressing the virtual Global CoWIN Conclave, he said India is inching closer to administering 36 crore Covid vaccine doses, a feat achieved in less than six months since the launch of its vaccination drive, while asserting that "we are committed to inoculating our entire adult population by December".
The conclave was attended by dignitaries from 142 countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis and Zambia. Noting that the shared challenges like the current public health crisis can only be addressed through shared actions and resources, Vardhan said the fact that vaccinating everyone is key to containing and ending the pandemic cannot be emphasised enough.
"The need of the hour is to speed up the pace of vaccinating people across the world. For this, we are excited to offer the CoWIN platform as a technology tool that can be used for greater public good around the world. I hope all your countries are able to gain value and benefit from our offering," he said. "Our CoWIN platform is a mirror of the success of the Digital India programme, which has witnessed a consistent upward growth trajectory, achieving numerous milestones and dotted with flagship initiatives," Vardhan added. The conclave was jointly organised by the ministries of health and external affairs and the National Health Authority (NHA).
"My government is more than glad to share with our extended global family the pathbreaking, next-gen digital platform, CoWIN, which has been indigenously developed in India and is powering the rapid progress of one of the world's largest vaccination drives against COVID-19," Vardhan said. CoWIN is the crown jewel of the Digital India initiative, he added.
"Throughout this pandemic, with the aid of technology, we have been able to execute large-scale surveillance to effectively implement our 'test, track and treat' strategy, helping us attain one of the lowest fatality rates in the world," Vardhan said. With two vaccines against the coronarius becoming available as India launched the vaccination drive in mid-January, "With a country of more than 1.3 billion (130 crore) people, we faced a mammoth challenge of ensuring a fair and equitable distribution of the vaccines as well as their last-mile delivery," he said.
For a successful vaccination programme, active participation of the country's health infrastructure across the public and private sectors was needed. Further, there was a need to develop a robust system that could prevent rent-seeking, black-marketing and other malpractices, the minister said. The backbone of this drive had to be a comprehensive platform that would ensure an equitable coverage across the states and continuous tracking of Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFIs).
Finally, the platform needed to ensure ease of use while also offering a multilingual access. Experts from the ministries of health and electronics and information technology came together to co-create CoWIN in coordination with various other stakeholders.
"As we speak, India is inching closer to administering 360 million (36 crore) Covid vaccine doses. A feat achieved in less than six months since the launch of our vaccination drive and we are committed to inoculating our entire adult population by December," Vardhan said. NHA CEO R S Sharma said past experiences and current developments have shown that extreme speed, smooth coordination and vaccine efficiency are paramount to counter a pandemic.
"We foresaw the need to balance these three, while also providing individual agency and flexibility to vaccination centres and people alike. This is tricky for any country, but it is even trickier for India, given our population size of over 1.3 billion, along with the cultural and geographical diversity, with the federated structure. "This is where CoWIN stepped in. CoWIN or the Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network has been serving as the tech backbone of one of the largest vaccination programmes in the world," he said.
"It fills me with pride to proclaim that CoWIN became the fastest tech platform in the world to amass over 200 million (20 crore) registrations in a record four months and then 300 million (30 crore) registrations in a mere five months, yet another record," Sharma said. CoWIN has been instrumental in influencing the vaccine administration policy as well. Early learnings from implementing Co-WIN taught that a supply-driven approach may inevitably result in lowering the efficiency of the vaccination centres, he said.
"This helped us take a demand-driven distribution approach and also make booking second appointments flexible at any centre. As a result, we have achieved an administration of over 350 million (35 crore) vaccine doses, with at least 284 million (28.4 crore) Indians receiving at least one dose. This means that almost every third Indian above the age of 18 years has received at least one dose," Sharma added.