COVID Vaccine a ‘Few Weeks’ Away, Here’s How India is Gearing Up
States around the country have started preparations for the nation-wide immunisation drive.
In the second all-party meeting on the COVID-19 situation in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said on 4 December 2020, that “experts believe we don’t have to wait for a long period to get a vaccine. It is understood that in next few weeks, COVID vaccines will be ready.
“The government is waiting for a go-ahead from the scientists,” PM Modi said, as he began addressing the process of vaccine administration in the country for the first time. “The first priority would be given to healthcare workers, frontline workers and old people with comorbidities,” he added.
Four days after PM Modi’s remark on immunisation, the health ministry announced that Prime Minister Modi had interacted with “all vaccine manufactures and scientists”.
“Some of the vaccine candidates may get licensed in the next few weeks,” said Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Union Health Ministry, reiterating the prime minister’s statement, as quoted by ANI.
The ministry also informed that the central government, in collaboration with states and union territories, has begun “preparatory activities for the rollout of the vaccine”.
Centre Prepares for Vaccine Drive
In a report by The Indian Express, an official source informed that all guidelines for vaccine administration are written after taking into account the possibility of an adverse effect occurring after a dose. Therefore, the vaccine will be administered in batches of 100, in three separate rooms.
According to the source, “In the first room, the beneficiary will have to wait; the second room is where the actual vaccine administration will take place; and finally, they will be directed to the observation room, where they will have to sit for 30 minutes because some of the adverse reactions occur during this period.”
Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has already said that the Centre is also preparing the line-listing of prioritised population groups for vaccination. In a report by IANS, the ministry said that the national expert group on vaccine administration has recommended 30 crore Indians to receive the vaccine shots first. This figure includes healthcare workers, frontline workers and the general population with comorbidities.
ADDITIONAL COLD-STORAGE FOR VACCINE
On 10 December, the Centre also began sending additional vaccine storage equipment to states and union territories as part of the preparations towards the largest vaccine drive in the world.
According to the health ministry, the present cold chain system across the country consists of 85,634 equipment for storage of vaccine at about 28,947 cold chain points. Equipment includes all auxiliary equipment like walk-in coolers, transport box and the likes.
The Centre has already asked the states and UTs to assess their cold-storage requirement, if they need extra equipment, ranging from walk-in coolers, walk-in freezers, deep freezers, to ice-lined refrigerators etc. The present equipment are also used for other immunisation programmes.
If removed from cold storage, a vial of the vaccine from cold storage can be sustained for 8-10 hours, The Indian Express reported. Therefore, officials are set to micro-manage the transport of the vaccine.
The central government has also began mobilising additional vaccinators for the drive, and out of 2.39 lakh vaccinators (auxiliary nurse midwife), 1.54 lakh will be deployed for COVID-19 vaccination, Hindustan Times reported.
Last week, the Centre asked all the states to identify the healthcare workers that may participate in the inoculation drive through a letter saying, “the states may also consider retired personnel from mentioned categories, as applicable, that may be utilised to meet the demand for vaccinators.”
The categories include MBBS and BDS doctors as well as interns, staff nurses, auxiliary nurse midwives and pharmacists, PTI reported.
Mumbai, Hyderabad and Delhi have also started their preparations for the country-wide immunisation drive.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has created a task force of ten members to oversee vaccination, and nearly 3,000 personnel are being trained to handle vaccine transportation.
King Edward Memorial (KEM) and the Sion, Nair and Cooper hospitals have been selected for storage and vaccination, and around 400 schools and gymkhanas under the civic body might be utilised for the purposes, along with medical colleges, peripheral hospitals and dispensaries.
A building in Kanjurmarg is ready for additional storage.
In the first phase, 1.25 lakh frontline workers and nearly 1 crore of the city’s population are set to be vaccinated in Mumbai.
The Delhi government has enrolled healthcare workers for COVID-19 vaccination and had earlier instructed all the healthcare facilities, institutions, nursing homes, OPDs and clinics, to send names of their healthcare workers for the enrolment process.
Delhi’s Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital has become the first vaccine storage facility. A cold storage facility also exists at Civil Lines that can store up to 5 million doses of any drug at a temperature ranging between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius.
“We have the infrastructure to roll out the vaccine to the entire population of Delhi in a few weeks,” Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said in a press briefing last week.
The airports of Delhi and Hyderabad have also started preparing temperature-controlled ones, as well as containers to store millions of doses.
Both airports also have special "cool chambers" in which temperature can be set as low as -20 degrees Celsius and "cool dollies", or special trolleys that ensure vaccines are protected during movement of cargo.
In a press release by the Odisha government, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday, said that “the vaccination process in the country is likely to start soon and for that a complete database has been prepared in Odisha and a logistics system has been set up for smooth conduct of the vaccination process.”
Set for a large-scale immunisation drive, the Maharashtra government has appointed a task force for COVID-19 vaccination programme in the state. The force has decided which priority groups will be vaccinated first, organised cold storage resources, training methods and identified over 16,000 vaccinators.
Dr N Ramaswami, state health commissioner and the member secretary of the task force said, “So far, we have added the data of over 90,000 people to the Central government’s [Co-Win] portal. As per the estimates, around 2.60 lakh government healthcare workers in the state will be vaccinated.”
The task force has planned 3,145 cold chains – 27 storage facilities on block level, 34 on district level, 9 on division level and one main central storage facility for the vaccine vials in the state.
They reportedly have adequate storage facilities for the first phase and have notified the Centre of the details for additional storage equipment needed.
According to Hindustan Times, the government of Gujarat has said it has the cold chain infrastructure needed for the storage and transport of vaccines. It has also organised and prepped the teams of vaccinators.
There will be 27,796 vaccination centres and 15,534 teams for vaccinations.
Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy recently announced in the Assembly that the state is getting ready to vaccinate one crore people in three months. There are 4,065 cold chain facilities in the state, where the vaccines will be stored, and 29 refrigerated vehicles that will transport vaccines.
Asha workers will be trained to inject vaccines to people.
(with inputs from NDTV, PTI, Hindustan Times, The Indian Express and IANS)
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