For two days at the beginning of next week, India will hold a dry run for the largest and most ambitious mass immunisation programme in its history.
The dummy vaccination exercise will be carried out in two districts each of four states at the four corners of the nation — Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, and Assam — on December 28 and 29.
With several countries around the world having already begun vaccination against the novel coronavirus, India could be just days away from granting regulatory approval for the shot. The inoculation exercise is expected to begin soon after. With over 10 million total infections, India is the world’s second worst affected country, even though daily case numbers have been falling consistently over the past three months.
The dry run will proceed through four key steps, which will be monitored closely by the central government:
# Each district will receive the dummy vaccine for 100 beneficiaries from the nearest depot;
# Temperature will be tracked through the vaccine’s journey from the depot to the vaccination site;
# An SMS will be sent in advance to the beneficiaries with the name of the vaccinator, and the time of the vaccination;
# Each beneficiary will be made to sit for 30 minutes after being administered the shot; if an adverse event occurs, its management will be tracked through the central server.
“A total 2,360 participants have been put through the national-level training of trainers, which includes cold chain and immunisation officers. Since people have already been trained, we want to know before the actual rollout [of the vaccination programme] how effective this training has been. We have chosen one state each from the north, south, east and west, and the states will decide the two districts. The dry run will be monitored by the Centre,” a senior government official who is part of the team that will monitor the dry run, told The Indian Express.
The dry run is intended to test the country’s flagship vaccine delivery IT platform, Co-Win, at every stage, sources said.
“After states identify their two districts, the first step will be for them to schedule five vaccination sessions in five different locations. The locations will be primary health centres, community health centres, or a district hospital” the senior official said.
“Next, they (the states) will create a session using the Co-Win digital platform, and include 100 people in that session. A five-member vaccination team will be constituted.”
In the third step, “100 people will receive an SMS generated by the IT platform that will convey that vaccinator X will be vaccinating you on [say] December 29 at [a certain] sub-centre between Y and Z time,” the official said.
The next step during the dry run will be related to the maintenance and tracking of the cold chain using the IT platform, sources said. Several Covid-19 vaccines will be temperature sensitive – and once the vaccination programme is rolled out, the country’s cold chain system of 85,634 pieces of equipment at 28,947 cold chain points will be used to store the vaccine.
“A team will be dispatched to the vaccination centre. The cold chain will be operational simultaneously. The district will inform whether it will get its vaccine from the nearest state depot or the Government Medical Store Depot (GMSD). There are four GMSDs run by the Union government, and 27 state consignee points,” sources said.
According to the sources, “The district will inform from which location the vaccine has to be received, where it is being taken, and details of the cold chain temperature up to the vaccination site.”
The sources, however, pointed out that while every state will have a consignee point in next week’s dry run, when the actual vaccine administration programme is rolled out, some states will receive their consignments from others.
“Not all states have a state consignee point. For example, Nagaland, which does not have a state consignee point for receiving the vaccine, will get it from the nearest state,” the sources said.
On the critical aspect of vaccine administration and adverse event reporting, the sources said: “The vaccinators will do the dummy run with 100 persons. Each person will wait for 30 minutes after getting vaccinated. They (the vaccinators) will see where the glitches are, if any. They will also record adverse events, if any, after the vaccination. Since Adverse Event Following Immunization (AEFI) is a critical aspect, the management of the adverse event will be tracked,” the sources said.
State-level training has been completed in all states and Union Territories, with the exception of Lakshadweep, which will conduct its training on December 29. “Cascading down, 681 districts (49,604 trainees) have completed the training of Medical Officers on operational guidelines. Vaccination team training has been completed in 1,399 out of 17831 blocks/planning units. It is ongoing in the other blocks,” the Union Health Ministry said on Friday.