30 Cr Indians To Be Prioritised For COVID-19 Vaccination: Health Ministry

Three crore health and frontline workers and over 27 crore elderly and people under the age of 50 with co-morbidities are on top of the priority list

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare intends to vaccinate over one crore health workers, two crore frontline workers, and over 27 crore people according to age stratified priority lists against COVID-19. These lists are being developed in collaboration with state governments.

With 9 vaccines, three under pre-clinical trial and six in various clinical trial stages, the government has proposed the way it plans to vaccinate the people who need the vaccine. Heath Secretary Rajesh Bhushan emphasised that everyone who needs the vaccine will be given the vaccine.

The government aims to vaccinate over 30 crore Indians in the first phase. These include over one crore healthcare workers in both private and government settings. Over two crore personnel from State and Central Police department, armed forces, home guard and civil defense organization including disaster management volunteers and Municipal Workers (excluding HCWs) are also in the priority list.

Furthermore, around 27 crore people have been prioritised through age-stratified lists. These include people over 50 years of age and those under 50 years of age living with associated comorbidities. The government does not have a sequential preference and says that vaccinations for these groups can be done simultaneously.

When asked if teachers would be a part of this priority list, Dr. V K Paul said that the committee of experts will be discussing about inclusion of teachers to the list.

Augmentation Of Existing Infrastructure And Human Resource

Augmenting Human Resource As Vaccinators

Bhushan in a press briefing on Tuesday informed that the health ministry is also working to augment the human resource that will act as vaccine deliverers but not at the cost of the existing universal immunization program that disseminates vaccines against 13 infectious diseases annually.

Bhushan repeatedly stated that the government will not compromise the existing vaccination programs under the Universal Immunization Program. A full vaccination schedule for children till the age of 10 and vaccination for pregnant women, will stay unaffected and its routine will not be hampered.

Furthermore, from the 2.39 lakh ANMs that are trained in vaccine administration, only 1.54 lakh of them will be trained for COVID-19 vaccine administration, as the rest will continue to deliver the regular immunization schedule. The Centre is also arranging for additional vaccinators in collaboration with the States/UTs.

Augmenting Existing Vaccine Infrastructure

Currently, the government has been using over 85,634 cold storage equipment such as coolers. refrigerators, deep storage machines, ice boxes at 28,947 cold chain points. The current capacity is capable of storing an additional quantity of COVID-19 vaccine for the three-crore health and frontline workers along with the routine immunization vaccines.

To keep its promise of routine services intact, the government will be providing States/UTs with additional cold storage facilities by the December 10, 2020.

The government has also ordered for more syringes and needles to meet the vaccination needs

Vaccination Strategy Plans

The Centre has also already formulated a vaccination strategy which will be applicable at multi-levels as a top-down effort. The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 headed by Dr. Vinod Paul of the Niti Aayog has created specific guidelines and priority lists for the smooth implementation of vaccine delivery. The district and block level committees are estimated to start operating from December 12 and December 15 respectively.

Along with the Standards of Procedures, Training materials, and Implementation Manuals, the government has also designed a management information system dashboard and platform called Co-WIN accessible to both the providers and beneficiaries.

CO-Win will issue an Electronic Vaccine certificate to the beneficiaries and will also assist the officials in maintaining records of coverage and dropouts. Vaccines status for each beneficiary will be updated on the dashboard.

Emergency Use Authorization

Several questions have been raised about emergency use authorization for vaccines in India. Dr V K Paul addressing this issue stated, "We are hoping early licensure is possible in any of them and all of them."

Pfizer, Serum Institute of India, and Bharat Biotech have approached the Drug Controller General of India for emergency use authorization which is not specifically mentioned in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of the country.

While Bhushan explained that this procedure was a part of the regulatory framework and just not named as emergency use authorization, Dr. Balrama Bhargava, Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research discussed all the different names that the process is identified as in different countries across the world.

Updated On: 2020-12-25T19:14:10+05:30
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