A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz/Pool
New Delhi: The health ministry announced on Saturday (January 9) that the country’s vaccination drive against COVID-19 will begin on January 16. Three crore health and frontline workers will be inoculated in the first phase, the ministry said in a release.
This will be followed by vaccination to those above 50 years of age and people who are under 50 and have comorbidities. The ministry estimates that there are 27 crore people who fall under these two categories.
The development came a week after the country’s drug regulator approved two vaccines – Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin – for ‘restricted’ emergency use. On Saturday, the health ministry’s press release used a different term for the approval, calling it “Emergency Use Authorisation or Accelerated Approval”. This is significant, as many experts and The Wire Science‘s reportage had raised questions about the language used by the DCGI while approving the two vaccines.
The release added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had chaired a high-level meeting to review the status of COVID-19 in the country along with the preparedness of the state and Union Territories for vaccination.
Saying people’s participation would be crucial to the process, the ministry said that the drive would be aided by the country’s experience in conducting elections (booth strategy) and the Universal Immunization Program (UIP). It said there would no compromise of existing healthcare services, especially national programs and primary health care and also “no compromise on scientific and regulatory norms”.
The national-level “Training of Trainers” programme oversaw the training of 2,360 state immunisation officers, cold chain officers, IEC officials, development partners, the release said. “More than 61,000 programme managers, 2 lakh vaccinators and 3.7 lakh other vaccination team members have been trained so far as part of trainings at States, Districts and Block levels,” it added.
The ministry has so far conducted three phases of dry runs across the country. The third dry run was conducted on January 8, across 615 districts covering 4,895 session sites spread across 33 states and UTs.
The Co-WIN Vaccine Delivery Management System, a “unique digital platform” will provide real time information of vaccine stocks, their storage temperature and individualised tracking of beneficiaries of the COVID-19 vaccine, the ministry said. The platform will assist the programme managers through automated session allocation for pre-registered beneficiaries, their verification and for generating a digital certificate upon successful completion of the vaccine schedule. More than 79 lakh beneficiaries have already registered on the platform, the release said.
On Sunday, during another meeting chaired by Ram Sewak Sharma, the chairman of Empowered Group on Technology and Data Management to combat COVID-19, highlighted that caution needs to be exercised to ensure there was “no proxy”, while reiterating that the beneficiaries of the vaccination drive need to be uniquely and undeniably identified.
He advised states to urge beneficiaries to seed their current mobile number with Aadhaar for registration and consequent communication through SMS. “There cannot be any proxies for Aadhar authentication,” he said.
Sharma also reminded the states that it is “extremely important to clearly identify” the person who is getting vaccinated and keep a digital record on who gets vaccinated by whom, when and which vaccine was given to them. He also advised the States and UTs that the data collection should meet the purpose of facilitating work and that needs to be validated at the field levels.
On Sunday, several state government said they have made the necessary preparations for the first phase of the vaccination drive, including identifying sites and registering healthcare and other frontline workers who will be inoculated.
(With PTI inputs)