* Provision of an air ambulance to address possible adverse reactions in tribal areas.
* An offline mechanism to update vaccine data in Kashmir valley to due 2G restrictions.
* Include elected representatives in the vaccine’s second priority group.
These were among the key suggestions offered by state health ministers during an interaction with Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Thursday, a day before the Covid-19 vaccination dry run in 736 districts. The interaction was to review preparedness on ground for the dry run.
The most common question posed to Vardhan was on the date of the vaccine’s roll-out, to which the Health Minister replied, “You will get the answer, soon…. You will receive clarity on all guidelines well before the actual roll-out.”
Rajasthan Health Minister Dr Raghu Sharma raised the issue of public confidence, with the two manufacturers – Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech – slamming each other in public. He said, “…the vaccine manufacturers are terming each other’s vaccine as ‘water’. This weakens people’s confidence in vaccines. Such activities should be stopped.”
Health ministers of Bihar, Odisha, and Telangana requested the Centre to include elected representatives from all levels in the vaccine priority population. “In the second priority group of frontline workers, all government officials – from panchayat up to the state level – should be included. Public representatives from panchayat up to Parliament should also be included, as they are all working (among the people) in the fight against the pandemic,” Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey said.
The states also asked the Centre about registration of the second priority group – those above 50 years of age. “When will the 50-plus age group begin registration? When will those below 50 years get the vaccine,” Naba Kishore Das of Odisha asked.
Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja said: “…There is no template for elderly data collection in the Co-Win portal. We should add the template for the elderly registration.”
She also suggested that doctors and healthcare providers working in private clinics and home should also be registered in the priority group. “There should be a mechanism for registering them,” Shailaja said.
Her Chhattisgarh counterpart T S Singh Deo sought the Centre’s help in two critical areas: “Even during elections, there is a provision of air ambulance. We might have to airlift (people) from some areas if an adverse reaction following immunization is reported. We might need an air ambulance. Wherever there is no direct electricity, we will require solar direct drive (vaccine refrigerators). In CHCs without internet, can VSAT (satellite-based telecommunication) be provided?”
He added, “In two tribal areas we have received feedback about poor connectivity.”
Singh Deo also asked about the shelf life of the vaccine. “When should healthcare workers who have already tested positive be vaccinated? We have not received clear guidelines on this,” he said.
On poor connectivity, a senior official from the J&K L-G’s office said, “We have serious connectivity issues because our UT is under 2G internet network. In the dry run to update the status, we were taking too long. Can there be an offline mechanism, where we could update the data later?”
Telangana Health Minister Eatala Rajender said: “We are facing only one difficulty: there is a software problem in 14 districts. We are trying to fix it. We are regularly talking to Government of India officials.”