New Delhi: While the COVID-19 situation around the world is becoming worrisome, India is seeing a steady and continuous decline in new cases since mid-September. India’s Cases Per Million at 7,031 is still amongst the lowest in the world, while the figure of Deaths Per Million at 102 is also amongst the lowest globally.
At the same time, case positivity rate is continuously declining and cumulatively stands at 6.5% now. This has been stated by Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in course of a media briefing on the actions taken, preparedness and updates on COVID-19, held at National Media Centre, New Delhi today.
The Health Secretary also briefed in detail about the Government’s preparation for COVID Vaccination drive. Some vaccine candidates which are in different stages of trial may get licensed in the next few weeks, he further stated.
Speaking about the steps taken by the Union Government for rolling out COVID-19 vaccine, Shri Bhushan said, “When such a huge vaccination drive is taken up, it becomes necessary to have institutional mechanisms at the level of States, Districts and Blocks that will inspect and supervise the entire process. Preparatory activities for roll-out of COVID-19 vaccine being carried by Central Government in collaboration with States/UTs include:
- A new digital platform for COVID 19 Vaccination Delivery called ‘CO-WIN’ is being used for this purpose. This user friendly mobile app for recording vaccine data is working as a beneficiary management platform having various modules. In the process of forming database of Healthcare Workers, which is in an advanced stage across all States/UTs, data is presently being uploaded on the Co-WIN platform.
- Line-listing of Prioritized Population Groups for COVID 19 Vaccination. Every single Indian who needs to be vaccinated will be vaccinated. Prioritized Population Groups include about 1 crore Healthcare Workers in both Government and Private Healthcare facilities, About 2 crore Frontline Workers (including personnel from state and central police department, armed forces, home guard, civil defence organizations, disaster management volunteers and municipal workers) and also about 27 crore people in the Prioritized Age Group, which includes those aged above 50 years & those with co-morbidities.
- Strengthening of Cold Chain Infrastructure. Current cold chain system, consisting of 85,634 equipment for storage of vaccine at about 28,947 cold chain points across the country, is capable of storing additional quantity of Covid-19 vaccine required for the first 3 Crore, i.e., Health Care Workers and Front Line Workers. The Health Ministry in consultation with States/UTs has assessed the additional requirement for Cold Chain storage (Walk in Coolers, Walk in Freezers, Deep Freezers, Ice lined refrigerators etc.). Additional supplies would be available to States/UTs beginning December 10, 2020.
- Around 2.39 lakh vaccinators (Auxiliary nurse midwives) across India provide vaccination under Universal Immunization Programmes(UIP). So as not to disturb the ongoing UIPs, only 1.54 lakh ANMs will be used for COVID Vaccination. Additional vaccinators for the purpose are being arranged in collaboration with States/UTs.
- This apart, there has to be a communication strategy on vaccine safety, effectiveness etc. A transparent, effective & sustained communication for COVID vaccination is crucial for educating people and explaining the implementation plan to them. It also will prepare them to accept some adverse effects as happens with all vaccines as well as address doubts and address challenges like disinformation campaigns, rumours and anti-vaccine lobby.
Speaking about the Centre’s initiatives, Shri Bhushan mentioned the Vaccine Task Force, which was constituted by the Union Government on April 14, 2020, and is co-chaired by the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India and Member (Health), NITI Aayog.
With technical experts and representatives of relevant ministries as its members, it provides guidance for focused research on Corona vaccines and other related Science and Technology Issues.
The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID- 19 (NEGVAC) has also been formed in last August to aid and provide guidance on i) prioritization of population groups, ii) procurement and inventory management, iii) vaccine selection, and iv) vaccine delivery and tracking mechanism. The NEGVAC is chaired by Dr. V.K.Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog and co-chaired by the Health Secretary.