COLLECTION AND entry of data in the state for a future coronavirus vaccine for the priority beneficiaries — health workers and other health institution staff — for a national database is expected to be completed in the next five days, state health department’s immunisation officer said Tuesday. More than three lakh personnel have already been registered, while another one lakh is estimated to be included in the database, the official added.
An approximate 2 to 2.10 lakh people who have been registered for the central vaccine database, state immunisation officer Dr Nayan Jani said, are affiliated to government facilities while another 90,000 are registered with private facilities.
The Union Health Ministry and the state health department had earlier stated that besides doctors from government and private health institutes, hospitals, corporate hospitals, medical colleges, AYUSH clinics and hospitals, dentists, general practitioners (allopathy/AYUSH), other support staff at health facilities, such as those employed with the state’s 108 ambulance service, Anganwadi workers, ward boys, and housekeeping staff among others, were eligible to be the first beneficiaries of the future Covid-19 vaccine.
On Tuesday, Jani clarified students, who have been deployed as Covid-19 assistants across the state, were also being registered as a part of the first priority group.
According to an official working on the vaccine plan, defence and police personnel and the elderly population have been included in the next tier of the priority groups. “This is only what has been outlined tentatively at Union Health Ministry’s meetings, and may subsequently change,” the official, who did not wish to be named, said.
Jani said there have been “informal, preliminary talks” in the Union Health Ministry meetings on these lines “but no official communication has been sent”.
During a video-conference with Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, the state health department had set an October 31 deadline for completing the database for the first priority group, when the Centre had simply notified that states should start collecting data on standardised form starting November 1.
According to the state health department, of the three-lakh health and allied workers in health facilities and institutions, data for which have been collated so far, around 25,000 have also opted to be vaccinators.
While data available on the National Health Mission (NHM) portal has indicated routine immunisation (RI) programme in Gujarat has been lagging this year with 50-70 per cent of the targeted children missed so far, the state health department has denied any bottlenecks amid ongoing Covid-19 programmes.
“We have over 2,000 cold chain points across Gujarat and are sufficiently prepared,” MA Pandya, NHM Gujarat director, said. Jani, the state immunisation officer, said the “existing infrastructure via which we carry out our routine immunisation programmes are in place (which will be used for Covid-19 vaccine delivery as well)”.
However, in districts such as Banaskantha, the spatial distribution of the population along with a low level of awareness for RI programmes remain a challenge even on regular days. A district-level official, on condition of anonymity, said, “As households are situated several kilometres apart, accessibility for our ASHA workers becomes difficult. Further attempts to bring the vaccine to the doorstep too sees resistance at times.”
Accessibility is also an issue in districts such as Dangs and Valsad.
Dr Anish Sinha, associate professor at IIPH-Gandhinagar, who had a prolonged experience of working in the field of immunisation across several state, said the approximate 2,200 cold chain points in Gujarat “are good enough” for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout. The state policy of designating pharmacists at PHCs, CHCs and UHCs as cold chain handlers, too, ensures “sufficient manpower… with regular recruitment process undertaken”, he said.
According to Dr Sinha, the key will be in maintaining “supply (of Covid-19 vaccine) with storage, handling and administering (capacity)”.
While the Centre has apprised states to assess and ready industrial cold chain storage for vaccine storage, if required, Sinha said it would not be required in Gujarat. “States which follow a policy of block-level PHC or UHC may require such a storage system, but in Gujarat a PHC is set up for every 20,000-30,000 population,” Sinha said.
Jani said vaccine storage capacities as well as in-line and deep freezers in Gujarat are for approximate 25-30 lakh beneficiaries each year, but with the Covid-19 vaccine, greater capacities may be necessary. “Since this (Covid-19 vaccine) will be for the 6.5 crore population of the state, along with the existing RI programme, all states have been asked to explore the possibility of expanding their capacity by making use of industrial-level cold storage facilities,” he added.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines