Once the coronavirus vaccine is available, it will be distributed under a special COVID-19 immunisation programme. The center will procure the doses directly and will make it available for priority groups, according to official sources.
They said the Centre will procure the vaccine directly to make it available to the priority groups’ free-of-cost through the existing network of States and districts. And they have asked the states not to chart separate pathways of procurements.
Around 30 crore priority beneficiaries would be given a vaccine dose in the initial phase and the center with the help of State and Union Territory governments have started the process of identifying the groups.
The sources also said, this is a special COVID-19 immunisation programme that would run in parallel with the Universal Immunisation Programme, but will use its processes, technology, and network of the existing vaccine distribution framework.
Four categories of people have been demarcated by the government for vaccination in the initial phase, among which, around one crore healthcare professionals including doctors, MBBS students, nurses, and ASHA workers, etc will be included and around two crore frontline workers including municipal corporation workers, personnel of the police and armed forces; about 26 crore people aged above 50; and a special group of those below 50 years of age with co-morbidities and requiring specialized care will be covered.
“States have been asked to enlist by mid-November the priority population groups… Each person in the immunisation list will be linked with their Aadhaar cards to track them,” a source said.
The Health Ministry officials have said, the existing digital platform and processes used for the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) are being enhanced to track COVID-19 vaccine administration and movement – from procurement to storage to distribution to individual beneficiaries will be done accordingly when the vaccine becomes available.
In my address at @WorldBank Annual Meetings Virtual Event – ‘Investing in #COVID19 Vaccines & Primary Health Care Delivery Systems’ today, I underlined India’s strength & experience of implementing the largest immunisation program of the world.@PMOIndia @IMFNews #imfmeetings pic.twitter.com/PhgJyutPLD
— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) October 21, 2020
Also, for vaccinators, online training modules are being developed. Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN) is a digital platform that is being enhanced and provides real-time information on vaccine stocks and storage temperatures across all cold chain points in the country under UIP.
Children, adolescents, and pregnant women are currently vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases free-of-charge under UIP, by the State.
Health Ministry officials had said earlier, that the National Expert Committee on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 has already mapped the existing cold chain being utilized under the government’s immunisation programme and has also made a projection of the additional requirement.
Currently, the Committee is engaged in mapping private sector facilities that could serve the needs of supplementing the cold chain equipment.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has said that the Centre estimates to receive and utilize 40-50 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine covering around 25 crore people by July next year.
The government is working round-the-clock to ensure that there is a fair and equitable distribution of vaccines, once they are ready, Mr. Vardhan had said earlier.
The biggest benefit that India has is that it has a robust immunisation programme in place and it is implementing the largest immunisation programme of the world, with nearly 27 million newborns targeted for immunisation annually, the Minister said.
“We have an established infrastructure for supply, storage, and delivery of vaccines to the last mile, under our Universal Immunisation Programme, where we are administering around 600 million doses to children every year,” he said.
“The strength of these experiences in the vaccination landscape, our best practices and the robustness of our health delivery system will be leveraged and augmented using a strong IT backbone to ensure that this humongous national mission of vaccinating the identified priority groups with COVID-19 vaccine is achieved in a timely manner. The Indian government will leverage the integrated IT platform eVIN for managing vaccine distribution,” Mr. Vardhan said.
Mr. Vardhan re-affirmed the commitment of the Indian government and assured that it has accorded topmost priority to the research and manufacturing to ensure that the vaccine reaches the last person.
A controversy erupted on Thursday after the BJP in its manifesto for the Bihar Assembly elections promised free COVID-19 vaccines, once it is available, for all.