The Election Commission will extend "full assistance" to the government in identifying targeted beneficiaries at the polling station level for the COVID-19 vaccination drive, but wants health authorities to delete the data once the inoculation exercise is over, sources privy to the development said on Friday. On December 31 last year, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora requesting the commission's help in identifying people above 50 years of age at the polling station level, the sources said.
On the issue of data security, the home secretary wrote that the government is complying with the current best practices for ensuring cyber security. He has assured the poll panel that the data will be used only for the purpose of vaccination, the sources said.
The Election Commission (EC), after detailed deliberations, wrote back to the home secretary on January 4, saying it has decided to render "full assistance" in the vaccination drive. But asked the government to ensure that the data is strictly used for the limited purpose for which it has been sought, the sources said. The commission also said that the data should be deleted by health authorities once the vaccination exercise concludes, they said.
Some senior EC officials will be in touch with nodal officers of the Union home ministry and the Union health ministry to settle day-to-day issues, the sources said. Last month, officials of the Union health ministry and the Niti Aayog had met the EC top brass seeking their help in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine given the poll panel's robust network at the booth level.
The letter by the home secretary is a follow up to the meeting, the sources said. According to guidelines for the COVID-19 vaccination drive, the latest electoral roll for Lok Sabha and assembly elections will be used to identify the priority population over the age of 50 years.
Twelve identity documents, such as Voter ID, Aadhaar card, driving licence, passport and pension document, will be required for beneficiary identification. According to the government, the shots will be offered first to an estimated one crore healthcare workers, and around two crore frontline workers, and then to persons above 50 years of age, followed by persons younger than 50 years of age with associated comorbidities.
Cost of vaccination of healthcare and frontline workers will be borne by the central government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch India's COVID-19 vaccination drive on January 16 via video conference.
The Drugs Controller General of India had recently approved Oxford COVID-19 vaccine Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute, and indigenously developed Covaxin of Bharat Biotech for restricted emergency use in the country, paving the way for a massive inoculation drive.