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Government finally reveals its Covid-19 vaccination strategy

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on December 08, 2020

Healthcare workers would be the first ones to get shots   -  THE HINDU

To cover 30 crore people — healthcare/frontline workers and the ‘vulnerable’

The Covid-19 vaccination roadmap, prepared by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration (NEGVAC), is ready and would cover 30 crore people — including one crore healthcare workers and two crore frontline workers — once the national drug regulator gives emergency use authorisation to one or more vaccine candidates that have applied for it.

Also included in the NEGVAC action plan, still awaiting final approval from the government, are persons above 50 years of age and those with comorbidities such as diabetes and hypertension (irrespective of their age), numbering around 27 crore, said Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan during a briefing here.

Even though healthcare workers — both in public and private sectors — would be the first to get shots, the drive “will not be sequential but could be simultaneous”, depending on quantity of vaccines available, he said.

Among two crore frontline workers are personnel from State and Central police departments, armed forces, the home guard and civil defence organisations — including disaster management volunteers and municipal workers.

Preparation under way

Among the vaccines applied for emergency use authorisation, allowed by the New Drug and Clinical Trials Rules 2019, are Covishield produced by Serum Institute of India; Covaxin of Bharat Biotech; and the mRNA vaccine developed jointly by Pfizer and BioNTech, which hasn’t done any trials so far in India, but is already in use in the UK. Bhushan also listed six other vaccines undergoing clinical and pre-clinical trials in India.

The priority lists of potential vaccine receivers are drawn up jointly with State governments and Union Territory administrations, and the preparations for the rollout are going on in full wing with the constitution of State steering committees and State-, district- and block-level task forces. The first meeting of all State task forces is expected to be completed by December 8, while that of district- and block-level task forces by December 12 and 15 respectively, he said.

Vaccine storage

According to the Health Secretary, even though there are 2.39 lakh auxiliary nurse midwives for delivering vaccine shots in the country, Covid-19 vaccination would use only 1.54 lakh vaccinators, leaving the rest available for routine immunisation programmes. An vaccine intelligence network called Co-WIN is also ready, and this would help register vaccine recipients and schedule administration of multiple doses several weeks apart.

The current cold chain facilities — 85,634 equipment and 28,947 cold chain points — in the country are capable of storing additional vaccine doses for the first three crore vaccine recipients. The Health Ministry is also further augmenting the cold chain facilities in consultation with State governments and UT administrations, he said.

Published on December 08, 2020

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