An estimated one crore frontline health workers will receive the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine whenever it becomes available, with around 92 per cent of government hospitals and 55 per cent of private hospitals across all states and UTs providing data identifying the workers, official sources said. Five vaccine candidates are in advanced stages of development in India, out of which four are in Phase II/III and one is in Phase-I/II trials.
States have been asked to accelerate the process of identifying frontline healthcare workers including doctors, MBBS students, nurses, and ASHA workers, etc so that the exercise gets completed in another one week. It has asked states to do planning and mapping of vaccination sessions where healthcare workers will be vaccinated during the 1st phase and mapping human resources across departments that could be deployed for vaccination sessions for verification of beneficiaries, crowd management, and overall coordination.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet with chief ministers and other representatives of states and union territories via video conferencing on Tuesday to discuss the vaccine distribution strategy, sources said. “Around 92 per cent of all government hospitals and 55 per cent of all private hospitals from across all states and UTs have provided data. The rest of the details will come in another week. We have asked the states to accelerate the process,” an official source said. The anti-coronavirus vaccine, once available, would be distributed under a special COVID-19 inoculation programme, using the processes, technology, and network of the existing Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP). It would run parallel to the UIP.
The Centre, with the help of state and UT governments, has started the process of identifying around 30 crore priority beneficiaries who would be given vaccine dose in the initial phase, sources had said. The government has demarcated four categories which include around 1 crore healthcare professionals including doctors, MBBS students, nurses, and ASHA workers, etc, 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 category of those below 50 with co-morbidities and requiring specialised care. Health ministry’s existing digital platform eVIN which is being used for the UIP is being enhanced for the COVID-18 vaccine distribution and delivery, through which SMSs would be sent to recipients informing the time, date, and venue to get the shots and digitally connect them and also track them, sources had earlier said.
Each person in the immunisation list would be linked with their Aadhar cards to avoid duplication and to track beneficiaries. However, in case a person doesn’t have an Aadhar card, a government photo identity can be used, the sources said. Five vaccines are under different phases of the clinical trial in India with the Serum Institute of India conducting the phase-3 trial of the Oxford-Astrazeneca COVID-19 vaccine while the indigenously developed Bharat Biotech and ICMR vaccine has already started the phase III clinical trial. Indigenously developed vaccine by Zydus Cadila has completed phase -2 clinical trial in the country. Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories will soon start combined phase 2 and 3 clinical trials of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V in India. Biological E. Ltd has started early phase 1 and 2 human trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had said that a COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be available by the first quarter of 2021.
He had said that the Centre estimates to receive and utilise 40-50 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine covering around 25 crore people by July next year. “The prioritisation of groups for COVID-19 vaccine shall be based on two key considerations — occupational hazard and risk of exposure to infection, and the risk of developing severe disease and increased mortality,” he had said.