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Officials told to gear up infrastructure, systems for Covid vaccine rollout by 25 Dec

At a 2-day virtual workshop, govt discusses plan for Covid vaccine rollout, including protocol and delivery mechanism. No confirmation yet on which vaccine will be administered.

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Chandigarh: Vaccinators across the country have been instructed to be “all set” for the nationwide Covid-19 vaccination programme by 25 December, ThePrint has learnt.

During a two-day virtual national workshop on “training of trainers”, which ended Thursday, immunisation officers from states and core Covid teams were told to keep requisite infrastructure and manpower ready by this date, according to sources attending the event.

Incidentally, the date 25 December has been observed as Good Governance Day since 2014 to commemorate the birth anniversary of late former prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The Covid vaccination will be done in batches starting with healthcare workers, followed by frontline workers, all of whom are to be pre-registered. The inoculation will be given at designated centres by trained vaccinators on scheduled days. These centres will be guarded at all times, said the sources.

The Government of India will monitor the programme centrally in real-time. Every ampule of the vaccine will be accounted for, complete with the information of who got the shot, when and administered by whom, the sources said.

The government constituted a national expert group on vaccine administration on Covid in the first week of August that was tasked with procurement and inventory management, vaccine selection, and delivery and tracking mechanism.

Preparatory activities for the rollout of Covid vaccine are being carried out by the Centre in collaboration with states.

Speaking to ThePrint on the condition of anonymity, a senior official from the health ministry said, “We are conducting generic training programmes for vaccinators. When specifics are known, we will share them. We have also shared draft guidelines with states on vaccination. The final version should be out by the end of the week.”

Also read: These countries have reserved the most Covid vaccines so far

Vaccine not known yet

During the workshop, the government shared details on how the vaccination programme will be rolled out but did not confirm which vaccine will be administered.

“We have been told to choose only those vaccination centres where we have a facility to maintain a vaccine at 2 degrees to 8 degrees Celsius. This cold chain has to be maintained throughout,” an immunisation officer who is attended the programme told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.

Among the Covid vaccine candidates currently under government consideration, only the indigenously developed Covaxin by Bharat Biotech and the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine have to be maintained at these temperatures.

“Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines need much lower temperatures to be maintained. These two vaccines are probably not in the zone of consideration for the national vaccination programme because of the huge expenditure involved,” said the immunisation officer quoted above.

Both these vaccines are priced at over $20 (around Rs 1,400) while the Oxford vaccine is in the $3-6 range.

Sources also said they were not told whether the vaccine has to be injected intramuscular or intravenous. “Or even subcutaneous. Also, we don’t know whether it is to be reconstituted or comes as a complete vaccine and has to be just injected,” the officer added.

Also read: FDA review confirms vaccines are safe. It’s Covid that’s dangerous

Think vaccination, think election management

The trainers have been instructed to follow the “election booth-level voting management model” to prepare for the immunisation programme.

“Pre-registered beneficiaries of the vaccine will reach their slotted vaccination centres on the allotted date. Their photo identity card will be checked, preferably the Aadhaar card. After they are given the shot, they will be observed for half an hour before they are allowed to go. A certificate that they have been vaccinated will be sent to them online,” said the officer.

Every vaccination centre has to have a waiting area, a vaccinating area and an observation area, preferably with separate entry and exit. In Punjab, 11,000 such centres are being shortlisted.

“Since many of our vaccination centres do not fulfill all these infrastructural requirements, we will have to shortlist baraat ghars, community centres and government schools as immunisation centres,” said a doctor from Punjab who attended the event.

India has 2.39 lakh vaccinators deployed in the universal immunisation programme, out of which 1.54 lakh will be on Covid-19 vaccination duty, said a PIB statement issued Tuesday.

“From Punjab, we have shortlisted 2,500 of the 4,000 vaccinators,” said the doctor.

Security and real-time monitoring

According to sources, trainers have been told that there will be a security guard posted at the vaccination centres at all times and will check photo IDs of those coming to be vaccinated against the names on the registration list.

The centres will be guarded at night as well to ensure the stored vaccine is not stolen or pilfered.

Real-time information of the vaccination programme will be sent by states on a daily basis to a centralised portal being monitored by the Government of India.

Co-WIN, a digital Platform for Covid-19 vaccination delivery, has been specifically designed for this.

The temperature of storage space for the vaccine will be also monitored in real-time through a temperature logger.

Other information, including the name of the person vaccinated, date of vaccination, vaccination centre and the personnel administering the vaccine will be available for every session.

Registered beneficiaries will receive information through SMS alerts. Following the vaccination, a QR-based electronic vaccination certificate will be issued to the beneficiary.

Also read: GoM pitch to improve health sector — 1-yr tax holiday for private hospitals, yoga in schools

Queuing priority groups

According to the PIB statement, in the first batch, healthcare workers will be vaccinated first under this programme.

States have been asked to submit lists of healthcare workers registered to get the vaccine. Punjab has uploaded a list of over 1 lakh health care workers, said the sources. These include doctors, nurses, paramedical staff working both in the government and private sector and medical college students.

Across the country, the total number is expected to be around 1 crore.

In the second batch, frontline workers will be vaccinated, including defence personnel, paramilitary forces, state police and all municipal workers. This number is expected to be around 2 crore.

The government has asked states for lists of police and municipal workers.

In the third batch, everybody above the age of 50 will be vaccinated followed by those below 50 but with associated comorbidities. The total of these two categories is expected to be 28 crore.

“While the information of the first two categories will be bulk loaded, for the third and fourth categories, registration could be either on the basis of a survey conducted by state governments or through self registration,” said the immunisation officer quoted above.

Rollout schedule

The trainers have been told to prepare for a deadline where all healthcare workers can be vaccinated by mid-January 2021, and by mid-June over 30 crore of the top priority categories, said the sources.

“Presently, cold chain system consists of 85,634 equipment for storage of vaccine at about 28,947 cold chain points across the country. Current cold chain is capable of storing additional quantity of Covid-19 vaccine required for first 3 Crore that is Health Care Workers and Front Line Workers,” said the PIB statement.

“The state trainers have been asked to finish the district-level training in the coming week, followed by the block-level training by 25 December,” said the immunisation officer.

Also read: Apollo Hospitals can vaccinate 1 million a day but not sure if govt will allow pvt sector


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