As the country prepares a roadmap to roll out the Covid-19 vaccine in the coming months, the Delhi government has also initiated the process for carrying out the ambitious immunisation programme. The Delhi government, in coordination with the Centre, has identified 609 cold chain points in the national capital which will be used for immunisation of healthcare workers, who will be the first to get the vaccine when it arrives.
Cold chain points will span across primary and tertiary facilities, and medical facilities right from mohalla clinics and urban public health centres to district hospitals, maternity homes and most tertiary-care hospitals will be roped in for the vaccination drive. There are approximately 60 cold chain points in each district.
According to the World Health Organisation, the purpose of the vaccine cold chain is to maintain product quality from the time of manufacture until the point of administration by ensuring that vaccines are stored and transported within recommended temperature ranges.
As per the initial plan that has been chalked out so far, between 1.8 lakh and 2.25 lakh healthcare workers will be vaccinated in the first phase. At present, three vaccine candidates — Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, Serum Institute-Oxford’s Covishield and the Pfizer India vaccine — are in the fray for emergency use authorisation.
Dr Sunila Garg, director, professor of the department of community medicine at Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC), told The Indian Express: “All top hospitals in Delhi will be used as cold chain points, which will be utilised for immunisation. Primarily, the centres will be manned by medical officers who will be coordinating the programme.” Garg is also a public health expert for the Covid-19 vaccination programme.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain had earlier said that healthcare workers and frontline staff will be administered the vaccine first, followed by the elderly, and then the rest.
In Delhi, the biggest cold storage facility is being created at the state-run Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality hospital and will be spread over 5,000 square metres. Officials said the vaccine will be stored here, and delivered to several cold chain points for carrying out the immunisation programme.
The state also has an existing cold storage facility at Civil Lines that can store up to five million doses at a temperature ranging between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius.
The government has prepared a list of around 3,500 healthcare workers who will be actively involved in the process. Among them are 600 workers from the private sector, 200 from hospitals under the railways, cantonment, etc, and 700 medical officers to monitor cold chain points.
“Training of officers at the national level has already been completed and the state-level training for workers in Delhi will begin from Monday. It is cascade-level training in which officers from various districts and medical officers will be trained in the first phase. These officers will then guide other team members. Responsible communication will play a crucial role as we need to remove the myths and misconceptions among the general public,” added Dr Garg.
Hospitals such as Lok Nayak, Kasturba Gandhi, Baba Saheb Ambedkar, AIIMS, RML and Safdarjung are among 609 points from where vaccination will be carried out. According to officials, more facilities may be added depending on the need and demand.
There will be around two facilitators and inoculators at each facility for injecting the vaccine and facilitating the process, officials said.
Dr D K Sharma, medical superintendent of AIIMS, told The Indian Express: “We already have adequate infrastructure since the institute has been vaccinating for other diseases. We will just need to plan a risk stratification strategy on how many healthcare workers will be vaccinated in the first stage. The institute has enough space for storage of the vaccines. However, there is only one kind of vaccine that requires a special temperature of -70 degrees, so even if we get that in the institute, we have several deep freezers in the research department where we can maintain this kind of temperature.”
Dr Suresh Kumar, medical director of Lol Nayak, said, “We have prepared a list of 3,900 healthcare workers from our hospitals who will be vaccinated in the first phase. The immunisation will take place in our hospital and we have the entire infrastructure ready for it.”
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