The Centre will bear the cost of vaccinating 3 crore healthcare and frontline workers in the first phase of the vaccination drive against the novel coronavirus disease, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Chief Ministers on Monday.
The PM stressed on three critical aspects of the administration of the vaccine: ensuring that data are uploaded in real time for effective monitoring of beneficiaries; curbing rumours and misinformation about the vaccine; and ensuring effective reporting of adverse events, if any, after vaccination.
“…The most important thing will be to identify and monitor the beneficiaries who have to be vaccinated. For this we will be using modern technology; using Aadhaar, we will be able to identify the beneficiaries. It is my request that real-time data generated during the vaccination should be uploaded on the Co-Win platform. The states have to ensure this. Even a small glitch can damage this mission,” he said.
“…Another critical thing is that every state and Union Territory will have to ensure there is no vaccine-related rumour or misinformation. The exercise cannot be based on ifs and buts. A certain section wants to create some barriers; there is corporate competition. We have to ensure that the right information is disseminated to the citizen. We have to involve religious organisations, the social sector, self-help groups,” the PM said. Most awareness will be required after the completion of the first two rounds, when the 3-crore priority group has been vaccinated, he added.
On the demand by several states, including BJP-ruled Bihar, that elected representatives be included in the first priority group, Modi said: “…This is my personal suggestion. First are the corona warriors, second are frontline workers. The people’s representatives are not included in this category.”
To ensure effective tracking, digital certificates must be given to the beneficiaries, he told Chief Ministers at the meeting that took place by video link.
“From this certificate, we will know who has received the dose; and it will act as a reminder of when the second dose has to be administered. After the second dose, a final digital certificate will be generated,” Modi said.
“…If someone experiences an adverse reaction after vaccination, we have built mechanisms to address this. We already have a mechanism in the universal immunisation programme; for Covid-19 vaccination, we have strengthened it further.”
The PM said the Centre will bear the cost of vaccinating the first 3-crore priority group, and that the Indian vaccines would be “cost-effective”.
“The big development that I want to emphasise is that both our vaccines (Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin) are cost-effective. We can imagine that our country would have been in a difficult situation had we been entirely dependent on vaccines being developed abroad. Our vaccines have been developed keeping our domestic requirements in mind,” he said.
“India’s experience in vaccination will be immensely helpful during the Covid-19 vaccination. After detailed discussions with the states, we have finalised the priority groups. Our effort is to first vaccinate the groups that are directly involved in protecting the health of our citizens; our health workers, safai karmacharis, the Army, disaster management volunteers…, will be vaccinated in the first phase. The Centre will bear the expenses for vaccinating the 3 crore priority population,” Modi said.
By the time the country begins vaccinating the larger 27-crore priority group of individuals above the age of 50 and those with co-morbidities, more vaccines will be available in the market, he said.
“Our country is now entering a decisive phase in the fight against the pandemic… We are going to start the world’s largest vaccination drive from January 16. It is a matter of pride that the two vaccines that have been granted emergency use authorisation are made in India. Four more vaccines are in progress. When we start vaccinating those above age 50 on priority, we will have more options; there is a possibility of more vaccines coming to India…,” Modi said.
On the criticism around accelerated approvals given to Covishield and Covaxin, the PM assured that the final decision had been taken by scientists. “…Whatever final decision was taken, it was based on the decision taken by the scientific community. They have the final word. Some people had complained about the delay in approvals in India. However, we waited until the scientific community took a decision,” he said.
The world would be watching India’s immunisation drive, Modi said. “…Several countries will follow the way we will carry out this exercise; we have an additional responsibility… The vaccine is being administered in 50 countries. However, only 2.5 crore people have been vaccinated. They have their own preparations and experience. But in India, we have to achieve the target of vaccinating 30 crore people in the next few months. Keeping this in mind, India has carried out detailed back-end preparations,” he said.
States must draw on their experience of successfully conducting the universal immunisation programme, and elections, Modi said.
“In the second phase, those above the age of 50 and under the age of 50 with associated co-morbidities, will be vaccinated. The dry runs… reflect our capabilities. The new SOPs [emerging from the dry runs] have to be merged with the old SOPs. Our universal immunisation programme is being implemented successfully; we also have the experience of conducting the world’s largest elections. The booth strategy implemented during elections has been used in this vaccination drive,” he said.