Express Pharma

Many Indians are sceptical of taking COVID-19 vaccine: LocalCircles survey

Concerned about black marketing of vaccines, an unorganised system of vaccine tracking, counterfeiting etc.

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LocalCircles recently conducted a survey to gauge acceptance for COVID-19 vaccines in the country which reportedly received 25,000+ responses from citizens across 262 districts of India.

Although the sample size is considerably small in comparison to the country’s total population, it hints at certain interesting trends. For instance, 59 per cent of respondents in the survey said that they won’t rush to take COVID-19 vaccines. The reluctance is due to several factors like concerns about black marketing of vaccines, an unorganised system of digital vaccine tracking, fear of counterfeits etc.

The company plans to conduct a survey each month to understand more on these perceptions.

Sachin Taparia, Chairman and CEO, LocalCircles said, “The majority of citizens (who took the survey) are sceptical about COVID-19 vaccine. The perception hasn’t changed much as compared to the result of the survey conducted in mid-October by LocalCircles. 61 per cent of 8,312 voters at that time had said that they are sceptical about COVID-19 vaccine and won’t rush to take it in 2021, even if it is available.”

Talking about the current survey, he informed, “There are 25,000+ responses, which we have received from citizens across 262 districts of India. And 69 per cent respondents were men while 31 per cent of respondents were women. Out of the total, 55 per cent of them were from tier I, 24 per cent from tier II and 21 per cent were from tier III, IV and rural districts. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform. All participants have citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.”

Pointing out the results, he mentioned, “Since the inception of the pandemic, through our platform, we have been gathering citizens’ inputs on various issues with regards to the COVID-19 outbreak. In July 2020, on the basis of collective citizen submission via LocalCircles, we had alerted the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) about black marketing of Remdesivir, leading to immediate issuance of an order by the DCGI to all state drug controllers, asking them to up enforcement against the same. In the last three weeks, we have been receiving concerns through posts raising concerns about black marketing of vaccines. They (citizens) assume that once the vaccine is available, there is a high risk of it being sold in the black market.”

“In mid-July, LocalCircles wrote to the Department of Pharmaceuticals and Ministry of Health & Family Welfare to implement a serial number and barcode-based tracking of vaccines from the factory to administration to a patient so that there is no room for black marketing. The same was acknowledged by the Department of Pharmaceuticals which directed the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) to evaluate the same. In early October, the Government announced the implementation of a digital platform to track the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, movement, storage and distribution to individual beneficiaries. However, the timeline of this platform’s availability is still unclear, along with whether the serial number and barcode tracking has been made mandatory for vaccine makers,” he added.

One of the questions asked to citizens in the survey was, “Should the vaccine be rolled out for hospitals only after a digital platform is introduced with the use of a unique serial number to track the supply of COVID-19 vaccine from the factory to administration to citizens?”

Of 7,786 responses received, 65 per cent citizens expressed that the COVID-19 vaccine should not be rolled out till a digital platform to track every dose from factory to final administration to citizens is functional.

This is an indication that the people of India believe that there is a high risk that the vaccine without a working digital platform could get in the wrong hands, leading to black marketing and even counterfeiting. Therefore, there is a need for robust digital vaccine tracking platform, which will track the supply of close to 1.7 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses needed for immunisation across the country, said Taparia.

“LocalCircles will share the findings of this report with relevant government stakeholders so that public concerns and feedback finds a place in the strategy and implementation of COVID-19 vaccine roll-out,” informed Taparia.

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