Covid-19 vaccine drive may span over a year, says govt

The Union health ministry has said that the drive for the introduction of the vaccine against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) will span over a year with multiple groups being included sequentially starting from healthcare workers and therefore it is important to create strong advisory and coordination mechanism at the state and district levels. “It is necessary to guide the process of Covid-19 vaccine introduction while ensuring minimal disruption of other routine health care services including immunisation,” the health ministry said.

The health ministry has sought the constitution of committees at state and district levels, which will review preparatory activities in terms of cold chain preparedness, operational planning, strategies for state-specific challenges in terms of geographical terrain and hard-to-reach areas, etc.

In a letter to states and Union territories, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan has suggested setting up of a state steering committee (SSC) chaired by the chief secretary, a state task force (STF) led by the additional chief secretary or principal secretary (health), and a district task force (DTF) to be headed by the district magistrate.

The Centre has asked states to constitute committees for coordination and overseeing Covid-19 vaccination drive while ensuring minimal disruptions in other routine healthcare services and stressed early tracking of social media to dispel rumours which could impact the community acceptance of coronavirus inoculation. “Ensure early tracking of social media and other platforms for possible misinformation and rumours around Covid-19 vaccine that could impact the community acceptance for the vaccine,” it said.

The state steering committee will ensure the active involvement of all departments concerned and devise innovative strategies for improving community engagement for improved coverage of Covid-19 vaccine once it is available. The committee will also have to institute a reward or recognition mechanism for the achievement of best performing district, block, urban ward, etc.

The state task force will provide guidance, including funding and operational guidelines, fixing timelines for districts to plan and implement Covid-19 vaccine introduction whenever a shot is made available and identifying vaccinators across government and private sectors so as to minimise disruption of routine immunisation services.

Activities also include planning and mapping of vaccination sessions where healthcare workers will be vaccinated during the first phase and mapping human resources across departments that could be deployed for vaccination sessions for verification of beneficiaries, crowd management and overall coordination at the session site.

The district task force will develop a robust communication planning at all levels to address rumour-mongering as well as vaccine eagerness, track blocks and urban areas for adherence to timelines for various activities required for the introduction of Covid-19 vaccine, besides ensuring timely disbursal of funds at all levels and sharing feedback at the state level for review.

India reported 48,648 cases of the Covid-19 cases and 563 related deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the country’s tally to 8,088,851, according to the Union health ministry’s data on Friday.

(With inputs from PTI)

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