Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday reviewed preparations for the launch of the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive scheduled to begin on January 16 and visited the dedicated COVID control room set up at the Nirman Bhawan premises of the health ministry. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will flag off the first phase of the pan India roll-out of COVID-19 vaccination drive at 10:30 AM via video conferencing.
This vaccination program will cover the entire length and breadth of the country, with a total of 3006 session sites across all states and union territories which will be connected virtually throughout the exercise. Around 100 beneficiaries will be vaccinated Saturday at each of the session sites, the health ministry said. The vaccination drive has been planned in a phased manner, identifying priority groups. Healthcare workers, both in government and private sectors including ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) workers, will receive the vaccine during this phase, the ministry said in a statement.
Vardhan said India's exercise to vaccinate its population against COVID-19 shall be the largest immunisation drive of the world. He reiterated that both the indigenously manufactured vaccines, Covishield by Serum Institute of India and COVAXIN of Bharat Biotech, have proven safety and immunogenicity records and are the most important tools to contain the pandemic, the statement said.
During his visit to the COVID control room,Vardhan minutely scrutinised each aspect of the working of Co-WIN, an online digital platform developed by the health ministry which will be used to drive the vaccination programme. It will facilitate real time information of vaccine stocks, storage temperature and individualised tracking of beneficiaries for COVID-19 vaccine. This digital platform will assist programme managers across national, state, and district levels while conducting vaccination sessions.
It will help them track beneficiary coverage, beneficiary dropouts, sessions planned v/s sessions held and vaccine utilisation, the ministry stated. The platform enables national and state administrators to view and sort data of beneficiaries as per their gender, age and co-morbidity.
They can also view the metadata of vaccinations and adverse event following immunization (AEFI) reported from constituent districts across states and union territories, the ministry said. District administrators can additionally create session sites at any location by entering the pin-code, followed by specifying the locality or villages and subsequently assigning a vaccinator.
Vardhan suggested that the software modifications and lessons learnt while using the highly advanced Co-WIN platform be incorporated into India's universal immunisation program, the statement stated. He also reviewed the beneficiary registration page for all non-prioritised groups on CoWIN. He suggested pre-populating the software with beneficiaries by seeding it with electoral database, in addition to other documents that are authorised for registration.
"The dedicated COVID Control Room has been involved in the massive exercise of monitoring district wise COVID-19 data from across the country as well as in depth analysis of the data to interpret and evaluate the status of the pandemic. "For the last several months, through this dedicated control room, the government has been closely monitoring parameters such as case fatality rates, infection rates, death rates and other parameters based on which containment strategies have been continuously evolved," the ministry said.
The control room has also been helping to track and record best strategies being adopted by different countries as a part of their response system and translating them into key learnings for India. The Union minister also reviewed the working of the 'communications control room' which has been closely monitoring the disinformation campaigns and rumour mongering in relation to administering of COVID-19 vaccines. He advised the administrative machinery to go all out to counter the misinformation campaign being spread by vested interests. The full initial procurement of 1.65 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccines — Covishield and Covaxin– has been allocated to all states and union territories in proportion to their healthcare workers database.
States and union territories have been advised to utilise a maximum of 10 days in a fortnight for the COVID-19 vaccination. They have also been advised to organise vaccination sessions taking into account 10 per cent reserve/wastage doses and an average of 100 vaccinations per session per day.
Therefore, any undue haste on the parts of the states to organise unreasonable numbers of vaccination per site per day is not advised, the ministry had said on Wednesday. The states and union territories have also been advised to increase the number of vaccination session sites that would be operational every day in a progressive manner as the vaccination process stabilises and moves forward.
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.
Vardhan will be visiting the new OPD wing of AIIMS between 10-10:30 AM on Saturday to join the AIIMS doctors and potential vaccine beneficiaries to participate in and witness the launch of the vaccination. He is also scheduled to visit a few more sites in the capital subsequently.