The present cold chain system in the country is capable of storing additional quantity of COVID-19 vaccine required for first 3 crore healthcare workers and frontline warriors, the Centre said on Tuesday. Addressing a press conference here, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the Health Ministry, in consultation with states and union territories, has assessed the additional requirement for cold chain storage and additional supplies will be available to them beginning December 10. He said the government wants to ensure that routine immunisation exercise and health services are not hampered when the coronavirus vaccination drive is launched. Out of the 2.39 lakh vaccinators or auxiliary nursing midwives (ANMs), who provide vaccination under the existing Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) across the country, only 1.54 lakh will be used for COVID-19 vaccination drive.
"Additional vaccinators are being arranged in collaboration with states and UTs," the secretary said. Bhushan said the current cold chain system consists of over 85,000 functional equipment for storage of vaccines at nearly 29,000 cold chain points across the country. "We all know that vaccines are temperature sensitive and need to be stored in specific temperatures. Presently, the cold chain system consists of 85,634 functional equipment which include deep freezers, walk-in coolers, walk-in refrigerators, passive devices which do not require electricity like ice boxes etc, for storage of vaccines at about 28,947 cold chain points across the country. They are used in the health ministry's universal immunisation process (UIP). "The current cold chain system is capable of storing additional quantity of COVID-19 vaccine required for first 3 crore i.e. Health Care Workers and Front Line Workers," he said.
Presently, India provides immunisation for 13 vaccine-preventable diseases, he said, adding that COVID-19 vaccination drive will not have any impact on that. "We do immunisation in India for 11 vaccine-preventable diseases and for two vaccine-preventable diseases in some states. Today, 13 types of vaccines are already being provided to crores of pregnant women and children in the country. This COVID-19 vaccination drive will not have any impact on that. So additional vaccinators are being arranged in collaboration with States/UTs," Bhushan said. Talking about the preparedness for rolling out the vaccination drive, the secretary said the requirement of additional syringes, needles etc. have been estimated and their procurement is on track. "The implementation standard operating procedures (SOPs) have been sent to states and UTs and are in final stages. Training materials, which include digital training content, are also being finalised," he said.