Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Tuesday said that the Centre had in August this year constituted the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC), which is providing guidance on prioritisation of population groups, procurement and inventory management, vaccine selection and vaccine delivery and tracking mechanism.
“Every single Indian who needs to be vaccinated will be vaccinated,” recommended the NEGVAC.
Mr Bhushan said that NEGVAC’s recommendations on prioritised population groups will specifically target the following groups initially for vaccination include — (i) approximately 1 crore, healthcare workers (HCWs) healthcare providers and workers in the healthcare setting, (ii) about 2 crore frontline Workers (FLWs)which includes personnel from state and central police, armed forces, home guards, civil defence and disaster management volunteers, municipal workers, (iii) approximately 27 crores prioritised age group population above 50 years and persons below 50 years with associated co-morbidities.
“It is to be noted that vaccination drive will not be sequential, whenever this vaccination drive would start, it could be simultaneously depending upon the availability of the vaccine. In the initial stage, vaccine arrival could be limited but it would increase further,” he said.
The Union Health Secretary said that the process of collecting a database of healthcare workers has started across all states, Union Territories (UTs) and central ministries. “This data is being uploaded on Co-WIN app. This data will be verified.”
The government’s consultative process for the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccine includes various preparatory activities being carried out in collaboration with states/UTs, which include line-listing of prioritised population groups for COVID-19 vaccination, multi-level coordination mechanism, strengthening of cold chain infrastructure, additional vaccinators, communication strategy on vaccine safety, effectiveness etc and Co-WIN which is a digital platform for COVID-19 vaccination delivery.
Mr Bhushan further said that the Union government has developed five key strategic principles that will govern the planned vaccination drive. “This exercise will be orderly, smooth implementation driven by technology; prepare for one year or more. There would be no compromise of existing healthcare services, especially national programs and primary care.”
“The government will utilise the experience of elections and universal immunisation program and we would ensure that people’s participation,” said Mr Bhushan adding that there will be no compromise on scientific and regulatory norms and other Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs).
“The current cold chain is capable of storing an additional quantity of COVID-19 vaccine required for first 3 crore health workers and front line workers,” he said.
Bhushan further said that there are around 2.39 lakh vaccinators (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife-ANM) across the country and only 1.54 lakh ANMs to be used for COVID-19 vaccination. “COVID-19 vaccination drive to have minimal impact on routine health services including routine immunisation. India’s regulatory framework has a specific provision for grant of emergency use authorisation,” he concluded.
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