In a high-level meeting, Cabinet Secretary of India, Rajiv Gauba asked all the states and union territories to prepare and maintain a database of the prioritized group of people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine during the initial stages.
Chief Secretary of the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, BVR Subrahmanyam, and Director General of J&K Police, Dilbag Singh along with Chief Secretaries of all the states/UTs participated in the meeting.
While reviewing the public health response to COVID-19, the Cabinet Secretary said that at present, three companies are frontrunners in developing COVID-19 vaccines in India, which are currently in the third phase of clinical trials and will be shortly available for usage.
He asked the States/UTs to “develop respective databases to prioritize various groups of people based on their exposure to the disease; starting from healthcare workers both in government and private establishments, frontline workers including armed forces, home guards, police, volunteers, municipal workers, etc, the prioritized age group of persons above the age of 50 years, and persons with co-morbidities”.
It was informed that in India, vaccines are being administered against 12 preventable diseases under the prestigious ‘Universal Immunization Programme’ (UIP), which is one of the largest immunization programmes in the world. “Therefore, with a strong network of 28,947 chain points for storage and distribution of vaccines, COVID-19 vaccine distribution too will be carried out in a hassle-free and time-bound manner.”
To further ease the COVID vaccine-related burden on existing medical infrastructure, the States/UTs were asked to develop a multi-level coordination mechanism through State/District/Block level Committees which will be mandated to monitor and coordinate the smooth delivery of the COVID vaccine. This includes arrangements for site readiness for installation of the additional cold chain equipment, plans for cold chain, and dry storage space for vaccines and syringes, facilities for transportation of vaccines at all levels of State/UT, and procurement of ancillary items like hub cutters and waste bags for bio-medical waste management.
The Cabinet Secretary said that efforts should also be directed to minimize the impact of COVID-vaccination on routine immunization and advised States/UTs to identify potential vaccinators among MBBS/BDS doctors/interns, staff nurses, auxiliary nursing midwives, pharmacists, and retired persons for organizing COVID-vaccination drives.
It was also informed that to facilitate coordination between government authorities, vaccinating agencies, and the general public, a digital platform for COVID-19 vaccination delivery named ‘CO-WIN’ is also being developed.
The portal will be supplemented with a mobile application to facilitate beneficiaries in getting registered; receive SMS alerts regarding the vaccination, and an electronic QR based vaccination certificate carrying all the vaccine-related information.
The Cabinet Secretary urged States/UTs to ensure a multi-sectoral response to the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine by involving all the government departments, NGOs, NCC, and other volunteers, besides maintaining an open and transparent communication with the public to curb misinformation.