A technician inspects vaccine vials for defects during a screening process at the Serum Institute of India Ltd. pharmaceutical plant in Pune in 2015. | Photographer: Sanjit Das | Bloomberg
A technician inspects vaccine vials for defects during a screening process at the Serum Institute of India Ltd. pharmaceutical plant in Pune in 2015. | Photographer: Sanjit Das | Bloomberg
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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has asked states and union territories (UTs) to prepare a “robust” mechanism for the storage of Covid-19 vaccine, once it’s ready, as it chalks out a plan for the next stage — distribution, ThePrint has learnt.

The health ministry has asked states to meticulously plan and prepare a mechanism that ensures proper storage of vaccines and maintenance of cold chains through which the vaccine will be dispersed.

“As you are aware that, one of the intervention for mitigating COVID-19 pandemic is effective immunization against it and robust mechanism for storage of vaccines and maintenance of the cold chain are imperative for ensuring the same. There is likelihood of introduction of vaccine against COVID-19 in near future,” said Manohar Agnani, joint secretary, health ministry, in a letter written to additional chief secretaries and principal secretaries of all states and UTs. ThePrint has seen the letter, which is dated 10 September.

“We have instructed states and union territories to conduct meetings at all levels across states, districts and blocks to check the preparedness of handling cold chains,” a senior official from the ministry told ThePrint. “The process would require meticulous operational planning at all levels. The same has been communicated to states and UTs.”

According to the government official, states have been asked to prepare “micro plans” for each district and block for conducting vaccination drives in the near future. “They have been given the deadlines to submit the plans by 15 October. They will also submit details on their cold chain preparedness.”

Another official working in the state arm of the National Health Mission (NHM) — a wing of the health ministry that executes the country’s immunisation drives — confirmed the development.

Also read: Modi govt mustn’t hesitate to make Covid vaccine free for Indians. It only costs Rs 80,000 cr

States to train staff, procure necessary equipment

The government has also instructed states and UTs to check the availability and working status of coolers and freezers at districts and blocks to store vaccines.

“If new equipment is required, the process of buying should begin and installation sites should be identified,” said the state NHM official.

States have been asked to train staff, including vaccine and cold chain handlers (VCCH), vaccine and cold chain managers (VCCM), programme managers and cold chain technology managers (CCTM).

“All the officials trained for the purpose will be updated in existing software called Immunisation Training Management System (iTMIS),” the NHM officer said.

States have been instructed to deploy two trained officials to handle vaccines and the cold chain at each cold chain equipment point. “One officer will be primary while the other should be an assistant,” the NHM officer said.

Mobile apps, intelligent network to track vaccines

The government is also exploring the possibility of using mobile applications to track and supervise vaccines.

“Apart from using applications such as Electronic Vaccine Intelligent Network (eVIN), stock distribution registers should be maintained,” the NHM officer said.

eVIN is an indigenously developed technology system in India that digitises vaccine stocks and monitors the temperature of the cold chain through a smartphone application.

Also read: Vaccine likely in India by first half of 2021 if ‘good results by year-end’, top scientist says


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