The world is racing to produce a safe coronavirus vaccine for the people in their country. Several countries such as the US, the UK, Germany have already started bidding with vaccine producers who are in their final stage trials.
In a country like India, once when the vaccine is available, a plan must be laid out for the fair distribution of the vaccine for all of the age groups. An expert group has laid out a blueprint for one of the efficient ways to distribute the vaccine, Anganwadi centers, schools, panchayat buildings, and other setups will be used to vaccinate people in addition to healthcare facilities monitored by the Union Health Ministry’s digital platform. This method will involve sending SMS’s and generating QR code to track.
The state government would likely identify the buildings which can be used as a vaccination booth under the special COVID-19 immunization program which would run parallel to the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) in our country.
The Health Ministry’s UIP digital platform called eVIN which is being enhanced for COVID-19 for distribution and delivery. Recipients will be sent an SMS containing the time, date, and venue to get their shots and also track them. Each person’s immunization list will be linked to their Aadhar cards to avoid duplication. If a person does not have an Aadhar card, a government photo identity card can be used.
Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN) system provides real-time information on the stocks and storage temperatures on vaccines across all cold chain points in the country under the UIP.
The vaccine once available, the center will directly make it available for the high priority group through the existing network of states and districts. It is also being planned to be available to the priority groups free of costs. The Centre, with the help of State and UT Governments, has started the process of identifying around 30 crore priority beneficiaries of the vaccine who would be given a dose in the initial phase.
The government has laid down four categories which include one crore healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, MBBS students, and around two crore frontline workers including municipal corporation workers, personnel of police and armed forces and about 26 crore people aged 50 and above and a special category for those below 50 with co-morbidities and who require special care.
The States have been asked to enlist by mid-November the priority population groups who will first receive the vaccine in the initial phase.
The existing cold chains which are being utilized under the government’s immunization scheme has already been mapped by the National Expert Committee on Vaccine Administration and has also made a projection on how many additional facilities will be required. Presently there are cold chain facilities in over 28,000 locations that are currently being used by the UIP. The group is now engaged in mapping the private sector facilities for augmenting the capacity,
Harsh Vardhan, the Union Health Minister had said that the Centre estimates to receive and utilize 40-50 crore doses of the vaccine covering 20-25 people by the July of 2021.
The introduction of the vaccine will span over a year with multiple groups starting with healthcare workers primarily. The committees at the state and district level will work on reviewing the preparatory activities such as cold chain preparedness, operational planning, strategies for state-specific challenges, and geographical terrains in hard to reach areas.