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Free vaccine for 3 crore healthcare, frontline staff: Health Minister

The Minister said the government is still working on details of vaccinating the third priority group — persons above age 50, and persons below age 50 with associated comorbidities.

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi | January 3, 2021 4:02:58 am
New Delhi: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan visits Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital to review the dry run drill for administering COVID-19 vaccine, in New Delhi. (PTI)

Days before the mass immunisation programme against the novel coronavirus is rolled out, Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan announced on Saturday that healthcare workers and frontline workers will get the vaccine for free.

The Minister said the government is still working on details of vaccinating the third priority group — persons above age 50, and persons below age 50 with associated comorbidities.

“In 1st phase of #COVID19Vaccination, free #vaccine shall be provided across the nation to most prioritised beneficiaries that incl[ude] 1 crore healthcare & 2 crore frontline workers. Details of how further 27 cr[ore] priority beneficiaries are to be vaccinated until July are being finalised,” Vardhan posted on Twitter.

The Minister visited two mock vaccination sites in Delhi to review the inoculation dry run on Saturday. The dry run was carried out at 285 session sites in 125 districts of the country. Feedback from the states would be analysed for “ironing out any glitches” during the actual rollout.

“…Dry run will end with review meetings at district and state level to discuss the issues and challenges encountered during the exercise. States have been requested to share the feedback with MoHFW which will be analyzed for ironing out any glitches in the final execution and further refinement of the operational procedures,” the Health Ministry said in a release.

The Indian Express had reported on Friday that based on the detailed feedback from the first dry run in four states on December 28-29, the Centre had identified focus areas including better mapping of remote locations, real-time reporting of adverse events, and ramping up training, and had incorporated changes in the nationwide dry run.

Saturday’s exercise was carried out in at least three session sites in all state capitals. The Centre had asked states to also include districts with difficult terrain or poor logistic support in the trial run.

States were directed to ensure physical verification of all proposed sites for adequacy of space, logistic arrangements, Internet connectivity, electricity, and safety. They were told that the model sites in the state capitals should have separate entry and exit in a “three-room set-up”, with adequate space outside for awareness generation activities.

Significantly, the trial was held as the national drug regulator considers granting emergency approval to vaccine candidates manufactured by Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech.

“The entire exercise of the vaccination process is being systematically taken forward, including training of personnel for administering the vaccine. Detailed guidelines have been issued to multiple stakeholders after extensive deliberations, paying attention to each and every minute aspect,” Vardhan said after visiting GTB Hospital in Delhi.

Some 96,000 vaccinators have been trained, including 2,360 in a National Training of Trainers, and over 57,000 in district-level training carried out in 719 districts. More than 75 lakh beneficiaries have been registered on the Co-WIN platform, which will provide real-time information on vaccine stocks, their storage temperature, and individual beneficiaries of the shots, Vardhan said on Saturday.


The country’s cold chain infrastructure has been sufficiently upgraded to ensure last-mile delivery, and adequate supplies of syringes and other logistics have been arranged, he said.

The Minister urged citizens to not fall prey to rumours and disinformation campaigns regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. “I have ample personal experience from the polio eradication campaign of 1994 about how the people of the country placed their trust in the science of the vaccine rather than [believing] the falsehoods and canards being spread by some rumour-mongers,” he said.

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