Covid-19 vaccination: Top priority should be 1 crore health workers, says NEGVAC

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Commenting on cold chain capacity for storage of Covid-19 vaccines, the health secretary said the existing capacity can store adequate vaccine doses for administration to three crore health workers and frontline workers.Commenting on cold chain capacity for storage of Covid-19 vaccines, the health secretary said the existing capacity can store adequate vaccine doses for administration to three crore health workers and frontline workers.The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration (NEGVAC) has recommended that 1 crore health workers be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccination. In addition, NEGVAC has suggested two crore personnel from state and central police, armed forces, home guards, civil defence and disaster management volunteers and municipal workers also receive priority.

Moreover, nearly 27 crore people above the age of 50 years, both with and without co-morbidities that worsen Covid-19 fatality/severe morbidity risks, should also be innoculated early on, the expert group has said.

Health secretary Rajesh Bhushan clarified at a press briefing on Tuesday the recommendations are under consideration of the Union government.

He observed NEGVAC is of the opinion that “every single Indian who needs to be vaccinated will be vaccinated” and the roll-out for these focus groups could be simultaneous, depending on vaccine availability.

There are currently eight vaccines, including the Oxford/AstraZeneca one, Russia’s Sputnik V, and Covaxin (from ICMR/Bharat Biotech), that are either in various stages of trial in India or under consideration for the same. Two of these, Oxford/AstraZeneca’s Covishield and Covaxin, have applied for emergency use authorisation (EUA), under the relevant provision of the New Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules 2019.

Member (health), NITI Aayog, and Negvac chair VK Paul stated that three candidates are before the regulator and could be licensed in the coming few weeks.

The ministry has also stated that of the 2.39 lakh auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) who are trained to administer vaccines, 1.54 lakh will be trained for administering Covid-19 vaccination while the remaining will be available for other health services, including routine immunisation.

Commenting on cold chain capacity for storage of Covid-19 vaccines, the health secretary said the existing capacity can store adequate vaccine doses for administration to three crore health workers and frontline workers.

Bhushan stressed the need to deploy requisite technology to ensure orderly, smooth implementation of the vaccination programme, which, he said, could “run for even more than a year”.

The Union and state governments will utilise the experience from the conduct of the universal immunisation programme and elections to ensure smooth roll-out of Covid-19 vaccination, he said.

The vaccination programme will be aided by a digital platform — Co-WIN, one aspect of which will be mobile data to record the vaccine-recipient’s data upon self-registration. Persons wishing to be considered for the vaccination programme can register themselves for this via the app. The Co-WIN platform will also have a dashboard that will give out relevant vaccine-storage/availability information for cold-chain points to those managing the programme at different levels. Co-WIN Beneficiary Management will do the tracking of a vaccine recipient and manage planning of vaccination sessions.

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