Vaccinating a billion people against COVID-19: India's quest for systems leadership in exceptional times

K. Gulati, J. Busari*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Purpose In January 2021, India launched the world's most extensive vaccination campaign against COVID-19. It is estimated that India would need to vaccinate over a billion people to achieve herd immunity. Even though the Indian Government focuses on improving and delivering its vaccination programme, significant challenges still exist. This paper aims to discuss current challenges to scale up India's vaccination campaign and addresses strategies for achieving this. Design/methodology/approach The paper is based on a review of secondary sources, including journal articles from scholarly and grey literature and information available in the public domain. The search focused explicitly on the COVID-19 scenario, vaccination programme, public health management and systems leadership in the Indian health care system. Findings The analysis revealed that various factors have disrupted India's vaccination campaign, including shortage of vaccine doses, mandatory prior online registration, lack of infrastructure, safety concerns for older people, untrained workforce and absence of a solid public health framework. Furthermore, India appears to have struggled to reduce tensions and instill trust in its ability to effectively manage the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination programme due to a lack of cooperation between union government, state governments and other stakeholders, namely, policymakers, hospitals, industry and community. Originality/value The findings indicate that scaling up India's anti-COVID vaccination programme would require system-level leadership strategies that work within the country's limited resources. Deeper reforms in vaccine development, storage, delivery, training and regulatory frameworks are also needed to extend the world's largest anti-COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-148
Number of pages12
JournalLeadership in Health Services
Issue number1
Early online date19 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2022


  • India
  • COVID-19
  • Vaccine
  • Systems leadership
  • Health systems

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