Even as it has started the exercise of mapping cold storage facilities across the country for Covid-19 vaccine administration, the Centre Tuesday said it has issued specific directions to states to review their own facilities that are currently being used in the universal immunisation programme.
“Recently, we have given a direction to states to review the cold storage, refrigerated vans, used in Universal Immunization. We are doing at this at the Centre and if states follow, then granular details will emerge…which will result in better planning,” Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said during the ministry’s weekly briefing.
The Indian Express had earlier reported that the National Expert Group on vaccine administration for Covid-19 — which has started mapping cold storage facilities across the country, including those available with the food processing industry — has also asked states to repair non-functional cold chain equipment, train staff in cold chain handling, and to hold task force meetings at block and district levels to review preparedness.
A temperature-controlled cold chain, including equipment and procedures used in transport, storage, and handling, is a critical aspect of the plan to administer the potential vaccine.
On Tuesday, the health secretary said the expert committee is holding talks with the private hospital chains regarding their cold storage capabilities.
“During the Universal Immunization programme, we utilise slightly more than 28,000 cold chain points across the country; we utilise, 700 plus refrigerated vans and we have 70,000 plus vaccinators. In addition, the national expert group is engaging with corporate health care providers to see the claims they are making in respect of availability of vaccinators within the hospital chains and their cold chain equipment,” Bhushan said.
He said two other specific instructions have been given to states: first, to prepare a priority population database; second, to form a group under the chairmanship of the chief secretary at the state level, on the lines of a national expert group formed, for timely implementation of directions given by the centre.
“Because we should not be in a situation where we ask them to create mechanism only when the vaccine program is set to begin. We should be prepared in advance,” he said.
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