Kerala is the only state to have ensured zero COVID-19 vaccine wastage, with Andhra Pradesh being a close second at just 1 percent slipage, according to the data released by the central government. When many states squandered nearly 18 percent of vaccine doses, Kerala also managed to administer the extra doses available per vial.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan took to Twitter to announce Kerala’s success. He thanked the state’s healthcare workers, especially its nurses, for the efficient roll-out of its vaccination programme.
“Kerala has received 73,38,806 doses of vaccine from GoI. We've provided 74,26,164 doses, even making use of the extra dose available as a wastage factor in each vial. Our health workers, especially nurses have been super-efficient and deserve our wholehearted appreciation!”
What causes wastage in vaccine doses?
Unlike what many people might think, vaccine wastage doesn’t occur when complete vials or syringes can’t be used anymore due to damage or defect.
Most of the vaccine wastage happens across three stages -- transportation, storage and at the vaccination centre.
Transportation-related vaccine wastage occurs when vials and syringes get damaged in transit. Storage-related vaccine wastage happens when doses need to be thrown out because they could have developed possible defects as a result of improper temperature or humidity conditions. A vial not being used with maximum efficiency leads to wastage at the vaccination centre.
10 doses per vial
A 5 ml vial of the vaccine has enough material for 10 doses or 10 people. This means each person requires 0.5 ml of vaccine to be inoculated. But taking out precisely 0.5 ml of dose through the vial for hundreds of doses each day can prove to be a difficult task.
Generally, there is a 1.1 percent wastage of vaccine in each vial. This results in only 8-9 people receiving a dose from a single vial instead of the full 10.
A vial once opened also needs to be used up within a certain time limit. If the doses from the vial are not administered in time, they have to be thrown away. This means that there has to be a sufficient number of people willing and ready to be vaccinated at a time in order to ensure maximum efficiency.
How Kerala used every drop
Before the vaccination programme started, Kerala was quick to implement strict protocols for storage, transportation and administration of the vaccine. Training was provided to all relevant healthcare workers according to the guidelines set out by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, as well. On top of that, special attention was paid to vaccine inventory.
It was no different at the vaccination site level. As CM Vijayan pointed out, much of the credit goes to the healthcare workers, especially nurses. They ensured that they were taking the absolute correct amount of vaccine doses, day after day, dose after dose.
Not only were nurses and healthcare workers trained, but people were encouraged since the beginning of the vaccination drive to go out and get vaccinated.
According to a TOI report
, the staff from vaccination centres would contact beneficiaries when they didn’t show up. They would only open vials when there were 10 people ready to be inoculated.
Lessons for other states
Kerala and Andhra Pradesh have set the example for other states. They have shown how with proper training, education and optimal use of existing infrastructure, a large public healthcare project like the current vaccination drive against the COVID-19 pandemic can be efficiently rolled out.
According to a TOI report
, Andhra Pradesh had reported 11 percent wastage rate in the early days of the vaccination drive but now it has reduced that number to less than 1 percent, far below the national average
. By making improvements to its infrastructure in critical areas and more importantly improving the mobilisation of people ready to receive the jabs, the state is now one of the most efficient in terms of vaccine usage.