India rehearses for enormous coronavirus vaccination drive

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 2

As it came closer to the roll-out of the first COVID-19 vaccine, India held a dry run by all states and union territories on Saturday in preparation for a massive vaccination drive, with Health Minister Harsh Vardhan appealing to people not to be misguided by rumours and disinformation regarding the safety and efficacy of coronavirus vaccine.

“Dry run for COVID-19 vaccine administration starts in all States/UTs today in 116 districts across 259 sites,” Health Ministry said Saturday morning with Health Minister Harsh Vardhan announcing that he would personally visit some sites in Delhi where the dry run is planned on Saturday.

India is eyeing a quick vaccine rollout once DCGI approves the first jab.

SII has already rescued 100 million Covishield doses with the government yet to sign a supply contract with them.

Also read: National fresh Covid cases go below 20,000

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India’s active COVID-19 caseload down to 2.50 lakh

COVID-19 vaccine to be given to people in Delhi for free once it arrives: Satyendar Jain

Vardhan said that free vaccine would be provided in the first phase to the most prioritised beneficiaries, including one crore healthcare and two crore frontline workers. He said the details of how 27 crore priority beneficiaries — those above 50 years of age and those below it having comorbidities — would be vaccinated until July were being finalised.

 In the national capital, where the dry run was held at three sites, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said that free coronavirus vaccine will be provided to the people in the city. Interacting with reporters during a visit to a facility in Daryaganj, he said the system “seems flawless” as of now.

SII will only get restricted emergency use approval as of now and not market authorisation which means it would need to sell the vaccines to the government for national procurement and not yet in private markets.

SII is likely to give the two-dose vaccine to the government for US$ 3.39 per dose, which comes to Rs 500 for two doses.

The company will sell two doses for Rs 1,000 in the private market once it also gets market authorisation from DCGI.

Also read: (Click here for the latest developments on Covid-19 epidemic)

The DCGI expert panel yesterday recommended restricted emergency use authorisation for Covishield to ensure the limited vaccine supply is first used for priority groups through national procurement by Government of India.

Priority groups include one crore health workers, two crore frontline workers and 27 crore people aged 50 and above with comorbidities.

Immediately, SII will be able to provide 10 crore doses of Covishield to cover part of this priority group.

SII said production scale up capacities exist. ndia supplies 60 per cent of world’s vaccines.

Maharashtra, Kerala and Gujarat conducted the mock drill in four districts each, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in five districts each while Rajasthan carried out the dry-run in seven districts.

India has reported 1.03 crore COVID-19 cases so far and the exercise was held a day after the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) on COVID-19 of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) recommended granting permission for restricted emergency use of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine Covishield, paving the way for the roll-out of the first anti-COVID-19 shot in the country in the next few days.

The first dry run was conducted in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Punjab on December 28-29 with at least 125 intended beneficiaries at five sites in a maximum of two districts each.

The union health ministry had said that no major issues were observed during the pilot dry run and all states had expressed confidence in the operational guidelines and IT platform for large-scale programme implementation.

Specific teams were formed for various tasks conducted on Saturday’s rehersal by the district administrations and activities like uploading of dummy beneficiary data, session site creation, vaccine allocation, communicating vaccination details to beneficiaries and vaccinators, and beneficiary mobilisation, etc were carried out.

“I appeal to the people not to be misguided by rumours regarding safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccine. We will not compromise on any protocol before approving a vaccine,” Vardhan said underlining that vaccine hesitancy was an issue even when the country started polio immunisation drive, but “we must remember its success”.

In West Bengal, the dry run was held at Urban Primary Health Centres in Duttabad and Madhyagram and Amdanga Rural Hospital in North 24 Parganas district       A senior official in Assam said the dry run will continue regularly in the state till actual vaccination takes place.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said the COVID-19 vaccine will be available in the state close to the ‘Makar Sankranti’ festival which will be celebrated on January 14.

He said that a dry run of the vaccine was held at some places in the state on Saturday.

“We initiated the campaign against COVID-19 in March 2020 under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and at the beginning of this year we could say firmly that the dry run of the vaccine will be held on January 5 across the state and the vaccine will be available near around Makar Sankranti,” he said at an event. — With PTI


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